(UPDATED COVERAGE, 1:25 p.m.) The California Pear Advisory Board earned strong support from growers in a referendum vote, but will no longer send staff to meet with retailers about merchandising plans.

Support was overwhelming, with 94% of the state’s growers voting to continue the board’s federal marketing order, said Chris Zanobini, the board’s president. Those growers represent 99% of  California’s pear volume.

The board currently operates under a state, not federal, marketing order, Zanobini said. But the federal order is “on the books” should the board ever decide to use it. A referendum on the state order passed easily in 2007.

The resounding “yes” for the federal pear order comes on the heels of California’s peach and nectarine growers rejecting their federal order.

“It’s another vote of affirmation making sure that we have industry programs,” Zanobini said.

The move to end merchandising trips is part of a restructuring of the board's functions. Instead of meeting with board representatives, retailers are now more likely to meet with marketers from individual California grower-shippers.

The board’s retail program has been very effective, Zanobini said, but changes in the retail world necessitated a change on the grower-shipper end.

“There’s a lot of retail consolidation, and the relationships between shippers and retailers are different,” he said. “Everything’s really customer-oriented.”

Although the board will no longer handle retail marketing, it will still conduct production research, foster environmentally friendly farming practices, provide marketing and category management research and create consumer education activities and public relations campaigns.