Four importer seats would be added to the National Watermelon Promotion Board under a new proposal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Federal Register published the proposal on Sept. 27, and comments will be taken on the plan until Oct. 27. The proposal asks for comments on realigning the production districts organized under the Watermelon Research and Promotion Plan for producer and handler membership on the watermelon promotion board.
Under the plan, the board would receive greater importer representation to make sure the board makeup reflects U.S. watermelon supply. The USDA said that 34% of total watermelon assessments of just over $3 million came from imports in 2016.
The USDA action would increase the number of importer seats from 8 to 12, increasing the number of board members from 37 to a total of 41. Under the proposal, that total of 41 board seats would include 14 producers, 14 handlers, 12 importers, and one public member.
The USDA said the change in the number of importer board seats was recommended by the promotion board after a review of domestic and imported production volume. A production review is required every five years, according to the USDA.
Board statistics show there are 1,251 producers, 147 handlers and 365 importers who are required to pay assessments under the watermelon research and promotion order.