(May 24) Will the mango research and promotion board ever make it out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture?
At least some USDA officials are concerned about foreign grower representation on a domestic promotion board, industry and government sources said in late May.
The mango promotion board proposal had been expected to appear in the Federal Register by early 2002, then in March. The proposal was still under review in late May.
While industry leaders were looking forward to a referendum and creation of the board by the first of next year, that timetable may be optimistic. In fact, it is uncertain whether the mango research and promotion board will see the light of day.
The USDA received the proposal about a year ago, which calls for a half-cent per pound assessment and would raise an estimated $2.5 million in the first year.
CLOSE TO THEIRVEST
Lee Frankel, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, Ariz., said a delegation of mango industry leaders went to Washington, D.C., in late April, meeting with Bill Hawks, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, and Agricultural Marketing Service administrator A.J. Yates.
“The USDA doesn’t show all its cards,” said Frankel, who said there is speculation that the agency may be uncomfortable with a research and promotion board for a commodity that is mainly imported. He said USDA officials voiced reservations about foreign grower representation on the board.
U.S. production of mangoes from Florida, Hawaii and California account for less than 3,000 metric tons, compared with imports of 219,000 metric tons in 1999.
FOREIGN GROWERS INVOLVED
In the proposed order, the mango industry asked for active participation by foreign growers on the board.
“We’re trying to be very inclusive, even though foreign growers don’t write a check to the USDA,” Frankel said.
Frankel said the mango industry attempted to show other AMS promotion boards have a significant import participation, including honey and watermelons. In addition, the proposed avocado research and promotion board — also under USDA review — will have hefty import representation.
Frankel said the mango delegation pointed out that countries that export to the U.S. have been the same ones experiencing expanding U.S. imports of fruits and vegetables during the past 10 years.
“That will help the USDA generate goodwill for the next rounds of trade negotiations and further the USDA’s stated goal of building bridges,” he said.
In addition, Frankel said USDA officials were reminded that the promotion board survived legal test and analysis.
The USDA had no official comment on the status of the mango promotion board, other than to say it was still under review.
Frankel said the recent visit of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to the Mexican border raised some hopes that the mango board is moving ahead.
“Until it is published in the Federal Register, there is no way to be completely sure,” he said.