Promotion order could unify industry - The Packer

Promotion order could unify industry

12/31/2007 12:00:00 AM
Tom Karst

Could a promotion order be combined with a scheme for food safety oversight? From comments on the Fresh Talk blog, I appreciate the input from those who find the idea less than stellar.

Some believe relying on the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service would be a mistake, while others believe the market will provide a solution. My response is that the industry would be using the tools of AMS as a platform for a consumer message, but the success or failure of the messaging would ultimately lie with the industry.

Others say that mandatory assessments have been tested in courts and found wanting. From my understanding of the Wileman Brothers decision relating to generic promotions of peaches, nectarines and plums, the court held that generic advertising programs paid for by mandatory assessments did not infringe on the First Amendment based on three principles:

1. That the generic advertising programs impose no restraint on the freedom of any producer to communicate any message to any audience;

2. That generic advertising programs do not compel any person to engage in actual or symbolic speech because they don’t require speech by any person, but merely are requiring contributions for advertising; and

3. That generic programs do not compel the producers to finance or endorse any political or ideological view.

While there will undoubtedly be objections to mandatory assessments for a national promotion order, the industry needs to grapple with the importance of raising the profile of consumer messaging.

Too few resources are spent promoting fresh fruits and vegetables. It is the difference between the mere millions that the Produce for Better Health Foundation receives from voluntary contributions and the tens of millions that would be available under a national promotion order.

The self-interest of the industry to promote fresh produce needs to come to the forefront.

In same way Whole Foods has marketed organic produce over what it considers its pedestrian competition, fresh asparagus must count for more than canned asparagus. Fresh pears must count more than canned pears.

If consumers don’t believe that, the bloom is off the rose of fresh produce.

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