In the wake of two growers’ referenda, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has ordered the termination of the federal nectarine and peach marketing orders for California.

California Tree Fruit Agreement may be dissolved

The move could spell the death knell for the Reedley-based California Tree Fruit Agreement, an organization that administered the marketing orders.

Whether the doors to CTFA remain open long term depends on whether the USDA permits the plum marketing order, which is eligible to continue for another three years, to remain in place.

“If we keep going, it’ll probably be a staff of one or two people,” said Gary Van Sickle, president of CTFA.

The USDA’s decision will end two long-running federal orders. The nectarine order has been in effect for 53 years, and a combined peach and fresh pear order has been in effect since 1939. Among other things, the orders were used to establish quality standards for fresh tree fruit.

The CTFA is even older. It was founded in 1933 and represents more than 900 grower-shippers.

The just-released results of the referenda indicate 63% of nectarine growers and 62% of peach growers voted to continue the marketing orders. While both vote totals were shy of the necessary two-thirds majority, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack could have directed the orders to continue.

“It (the total) was within what the secretary had latitude to pass,” Van Sickle said. “In fact, the totals were higher than the last referenda.”

Growers also voted overwhelmingly to continue a pear order, but the outcome was moot. Pear order provisions have been suspended since 1994.

CTFA grower members voted to abandon domestic marketing efforts three years ago. The USDA’s decision to terminate the orders also will halt international marketing programs.

“We’re walking away from $2.5 million market access program funds,” Van Sickle said.

The termination also will end annual volume estimates, and there will be no packout tracking, Van Sickle said.

The CTFA will not immediately close its doors. A phase-down could take as long as six months as a mandatory audit is conducted and assessment refunds are forwarded to grower-shippers, Van Sickle said.