Industry considers California kiwifruit order changes

11/20/2009 07:21:11 AM
Don Schrack

California kiwifruit grower-shippers might vote in 2010 on a handful of proposed amendments to rules governing the federal Kiwifruit Administrative Committee.

The amendments, printed in the Federal Register Nov. 12, are aimed at streamlining the industry and giving the committee an expanded role.

“The changes address the reality that the industry has changed since the first marketing order was put in place,” said Nick Matteis, assistant manager of the committee and the California Kiwifruit Commission, Sacramento.

The proposed changes, which have the support of the state commission, would realign grower districts and committee membership, revise the committee’s nomination and selection processes, authorize the committee to conduct production, post-harvest and marketing research and promotional programs and revise meeting and voting procedures.

“The growers may decide in the future to go with just one group and want to preemptively equip the administrative committee with the same capabilities as the commission,” Matteis said.

While there are areas where responsibilities overlap, the state commission focuses on public relations, advertising and promotion while the committee mostly deals with grade standards, said grower-shipper Doug Phillips, owner of Phillips Farms Marketing, Visalia, Calif.

“It might be a good move to eliminate some of the redundancy,” he said. “The industry probably needs just one body.”

When the kiwifruit marketing order went into effect, the state’s then embryonic kiwifruit industry was spread across California. As a result, representatives are elected to the committee from eight districts, Matteis said.

Since the mid-1990s, two regions have become dominant, he said. One is the Kings-Tulare counties area; the other is north of Sacramento. A proposed amendment would reduce the districts to three, one for each of the major growing regions and one for the rest of the state.

“Participation was becoming a problem,” Phillips said. “We were having trouble getting a quorum at meetings.”

Comments on the proposed changes will be accepted until Dec. 14. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will evaluate the comments before deciding on a grower referendum for the proposed amendments, said a spokeswoman for the department’s Marketing Order Administration Branch. That decision is not expected to be reached before May or June, she said.


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