SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Kiwifruit Commission will at the end of September join a handful of other state-legislated commodities’ groups by fading into the history books. Grower-shippers voted last fall to dissolve the commission.
The closure does not, however, leave the state’s kiwifruit industry without representation. The federal Kiwifruit Administrative Committee, also based in Sacramento, remains in force, and there is a move afoot to expand its role.
The committee’s duties are limited currently to areas such as establishing grade standards, said John Fagundes, owner of Fagundes Agribusiness, Hanford.
“We plan to petition the U.S. Department of Agriculture to add research and, perhaps, promotion functions to the federal marketing order,” he said.
The committee’s board of directors voted July 10 to seek the expanded role, said Nick Matteis, assistant manager of the commission and the committee. Work has already begun on the formal rule-making process, he said. The next step will be to submit the points of justification to the USDA.
If the industry gets a federal green light, changes will not take place soon.
“The whole process could take up to two years,” Matteis said.
The industry will not be without some promotion in the near future. It has secured a position in the Buy California Grown program through the coming season, Matteis said.
Not all California kiwifruit grower-shippers supported the dissolution of the commission, but the consensus over the years has been “that one entity should handle all facets of kiwifruit marketing,” said Doug Phillips, owner of Phillips Farms Marketing, Visalia.
“I think there’s solid support in the industry to enlarge the role of the administrative committee to take over some of the functions the commission performed,” he said.
If and when the committee’s role is expanded, the California industry would be eligible to apply for Market Access Program funds from the USDA, Matteis said.
With the canker problems that hit Italy and New Zealand last year, foreign demand for U.S. kiwifruit is growing, Phillips said.
“The foreign exchange rates are also making our fruit very attractive in the global market,” he said.