The demise of the federal California peach and nectarine orders – coupled with the state’s financial woes – has buyers and grower-shippers operating in the dark.
When in March the U.S. Department of Agriculture directed the orders, administered by the California Tree Fruit Agreement, Reedley, to be terminated, out went buyers’ and growers’ access to statistics and stone fruit research.
“I don’t want to be pessimistic, but I’m worried about it,” said Bill Chandler, owner of Chandler Farms, Selma, Calif. “I am very concerned about what the impact will be.”
Some packers may elect to help fund research in the future, he said, but not having categorical statistics during the season is the immediate problem.
In recent years, CTFA’s website provided daily packout numbers for peaches, plums and nectarines. The data helped buyers determine how much of a commodity’s crop had been harvested and packed – and how much of the volume would be available in the future.
The concern over cutting off the statistics and research did not come as a surprise to some in the industry.
“I think those two things will be sorely missed,” Dave Parker, director of marketing for Scattaglia Growers & Shippers LLC, Traver, said when the USDA’s decision was announced.
The situation is akin to a similar decision grower-shippers made several years ago, Chandler said.
“We voted out the federal plum marketing order, but then we realized we needed the research and the statistics,” he said.
As a result, the California Plum Marketing Board was established. The plum board voted in April to continue but with very limited operations through 2011.
CTFA spent nearly $825,000 on a variety of research projects in 2010. The fallout, now that all of the organization’s research has ended, could be far reaching, Chandler said, because the findings were shared with other stone fruit producing countries who reciprocated with their research projects.
“We learned a heck of a lot from New Zealand, Australia and other countries through shared research,” Chandler said.
Many of the domestic research projects were conducted at the University of California Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier. Still other projects took place through the California State University Agricultural Research Initiative based at CSU-Fresno.
When lawmakers finalize the fiscal 2012 budget, funding for each of the two university systems could be cut by as much at $1 billion.
While the USDA may continue limited stone fruit research, the end of the California peach and nectarine orders will mean the state’s grower-shippers will have little say in determining what projects are selected, Chandler said.