See updated story: PMA, United Fresh merger talks continue.
The fates of the United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association could be determined.
The boards of directors of the two groups discussed, and possibly voted on, a merger of the two associations during a conference call June 4. The call coincided with a PMA board meeting in Sonoma, Calif.
No current member of either board or spokesmen for United Fresh and PMA would officially confirm the report.
One former United Fresh board member, speaking anonymously, said he was in support of the merger.
Having one national organization to represent the interests of the industry would be more efficient, he said.
“I don’t see the value of having two big organizations; it is a resource issue.”
Dues, travel expenses for multiple association events and staff travel time could be cut back if the groups merged he said.
The groups formed a 12-member task force in 2011 to consider the possibility of a merger.
Steffanie Smith, former chief executive officer of River Point Farms, Hermiston, Ore., and immediate past chairwoman of United Fresh, and Mike O’Brien, immediate past PMA chairman and vice president of produce and floral for Schnuck Markets Inc., St. Louis, have led the group considering the merger.
No specific details of the proposed merger have been released by the group.
In early May, Smith said the United Fresh board of directors had not voted on the merger. However, she said the dialogue was continuing, a sign the talks were making progress.
While the proposed merger seems to have fairly broad support in the industry, one industry leader said the challenge will be to convince the grower-shippers that their interests will be adequately represented by a combined organization. Another challenge will be sort out who should lead a merged national trade group.