(Oct. 9, 1:36 p.m.) After a two-year absence, the California Kiwifruit Commission and the federal Kiwifruit Administrative Committee are back in the state capital, Sacramento, and operating out of a single office.

California Department of Food and Agriculture officials separated the two groups two years ago after an audit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that state and federal funds had been commingled. The commission’s board of directors voted in September 2006 to retain the California Apple Commission, Fresno, to oversee the kiwifruit commission. The administrative committee was relocated to Reedley, Calif. under the direction of manager Barbara Windmiller.

In a move designed to put both bodies again under one roof, the commission elected to retain the California Grain and Food Association to administer the state and federal programs. Chris Zanobini is the commission’s new president; he continues as executive director of the California Pear Advisory Board. The agreement became effective Sept. 1, Zanobini said.

The grain association administers more than two dozen trade associations and commodity boards, he said.

“My goal is to use my expertise in working with a number of different groups, as industries shrink and organizations shrink as well, and to look for ways to provide value back to the growers,” he said.

Zanobini said he does not foresee major changes for the kiwifruit commission, but that efforts to increase consumer loyalty are in the works.

“We’re going to be evaluating some retail studies on selling kiwifruit by the pound rather than by the piece,” he said. “I think the piece pricing has been a real deterrent to growing the kiwifruit category.”

Due to a mid-April frost, Zanobini said the 2008 California kiwifruit deal will be down about 20% from the annual average. Volume is projected to be 5.5 million trays, he said. Growers report the fruit’s quality and size are good, he said.

“The California kiwifruit deal will be sufficient to offer retailers ample opportunity for fall and winter promotions,” Zanobini said.

Windmiller has left the commission, but she was unavailable to comment on her plans.

The commission’s new address is 1521 I St., Sacramento, Calif., 95814; the telephone number is (916) 441-0678. The commission will continue to maintain its Website, www.kiwifruit.org.