DALLAS — Perhaps closer to a union than they have ever been, significant hurdles remain in merger talks between the United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association.
Steffanie Smith, immediate past chairwoman of Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh and chief executive officer of River Point Farms LLC, Hermiston, Ore., and Mike O’Brien, past chairman of the Newark, Del.-based PMA and vice president of produce for St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets Inc., lead a task force for the merger discussions.
“No final decisions have been made, and published reports implying otherwise are incorrect,” Smith and O’Brien said in a statement May 2.
Frustration with the lack of progress began emerging both within the two associations and the produce industry as summer began.
United Fresh, PMA leave industry dangling
Tom Karst, National Editor
Three words said it all — and nothing.
With the e-mail message “talks are continuing,” Mike O’Brien, immediate past Produce Marketing Association chairman and vice president of produce and floral for Schnuck Markets Inc., St. Louis, summed up the status of merger discussions between United Fresh Produce Association and PMA.
Finally, the news emerged that the two associations reached a stalemate, and the talks were over. There would be no merger. United’s chairman David Krause was open with The Packer about the issues that doomed the merger while his counterparts at PMA, Mike O’Brien and Rich Dachman were more circumspect.
Merger derails on leadership, vision differences
By Tom Karst, National Editor
Failing to agree when it counted, the United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association saw 18 months of work go for naught when the two groups ended merger negotiations July 13.
While United Fresh leaders say PMA’s insistence that Bryan Silbermann be appointed the new chief executive officer of a merged association was the only reason a merger didn’t happen, PMA merger task force chairman Mike O’Brien, immediate past PMA chairman, said there was no place for blame in the negotiations. “Honestly I believed that we would be able to accomplish a merger and that PMA and United would be stronger working together,” O’Brien said July 18.
“However, in the end we weren’t able to accomplish this.”
“Our goal is to move forward and do what is right for the membership of PMA,” said O’Brien, vice president of produce and floral for Schnuck Markets Inc., St. Louis.