The California Plum Marketing Board voted April 8 to continue, but with very limited operations through 2011.

California Plum Marketing Board to continue through 2011

The decision, however, is not likely to save the Reedley-based California Tree Fruit Agreement, which has administered the plum board and other federal and state tree fruit marketing orders and boards since 1933.

The plum board initially voted seven to three to continue operating through 2011, but could not muster the nine vote super majority needed to pass the CTFA staff’s proposed budget, which suggested a per carton assessment of 4.75 cents. After nearly two hours of discussion and debate, the board voted to approve a two cents per carton assessment for 2011. The assessment will be sufficient to support two budget items, international marketing and the funding of five research projects, said Gary Van Sickle, CTFA president.

No longer will CTFA provide category analysis and statistics, and daily packout data. The agreement’s PPN Network will be terminated as will the CTFA website effective June 1. Also eliminated in the plum board budget are membership dues to the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., and the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.

Board members were encouraged to continue the board’s international marketing efforts due in large part to $500,000 of USDA market access program funds. The board will have to provide $82,000 in matching funds.

“This is our best dollar value,” said Mike Jackson, board member and co-owner of Kingsburg Orchards, Kingsburg.

Financial woes have been mounting for CTFA in recent months. In November, nectarine and peach grower-shippers voted to dissolve the just five year old California Tree Fruit Marketing Board. Terminating the board meant a loss of assessments for CTFA.

Lagging grower support in two referenda earlier this year resulted in the USDA’s ordering the termination of the federal nectarine and peach marketing orders for California. Without the peach and nectarine assessments, the Plum Marketing Board will no long have partners to share the costs of running CTFA.

“The staff has begun the wind down for the nectarine and peach orders,” Van Sickle said. “Those duties should take about 11 months.”
Staff reduction also is under way.

“We have a schedule,” Van Sickle said. “Two staff members will be gone in two weeks and others will be separated as their wind down duties are completed.”