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4/4/2011 - California Pear Advisory Board Looks to Future with New “Sustainable” Structure

Chris Zanobini 916-441-0432
Sacramento, CA – With the news that industry programs for California peaches and nectarines have been voted out by growers, California pear farmers want everyone to know that their marketing order is active and efforts are underway to make the program eve

Sacramento, CA – With the news that industry programs for California peaches and nectarines have been voted out by growers, California pear farmers want everyone to know that their marketing order is active and efforts are underway to make the program even more valuable for both growers and retail customers.

“In recent referenda, peach and nectarine farmers have voted to discontinue the California Tree Fruit Agreement programs. Conversely, pear farmers have overwhelmingly voted in favor of continuing with their programs,” said Chris Zanobini, President of the California Pear Advisory Board.  Zanobini explained the pear industry has the ability to conduct marketing programs through a state board under the California Department of Food and Agriculture as well as a federal marketing order under the United States Department of Agriculture.  The pear industry currently does not use the federal order but maintains it as a tool for the industry and all programs are conducted through the California Pear Advisory Board.

 “The referendum recently held for the federal marketing order resulted in 94 percent of California pear farmers representing 99 percent of the pear volume voting in favor of continuing the program,” said Zanobini, who explained that the last time a vote was held for the state advisory board it also passed with 89 percent of growers and 80 percent of the volume voting in favor of continuing the program and  expanding the order to include all pear varieties produced in the state, rather than just a few varieties that had been previously covered. “This shows very strong support for maintaining an industry-wide program among pear growers and is an indication that pear farmers are in this for the long haul.”

 Zanobini noted that “sustainable” is a term which perfectly characterizes the California pear industry.  A project begun two years ago to measure sustainability within the California pear industry found a very high percentage of growers have adopted innovative and environmental-friendly farming practices.  The survey also reported that California pear farmers belong to a close-knit community which has been embattled in recent years. 

“At one time there were 300 pear farmers in the state and today there are just 60,” said Zanobini.  “Those who are left have no choice but to adapt and utilize their resources wisely.”

With a clear focus on how it could best serve its members, customers and consumers, the California Pear Advisory Board recently underwent a restructuring.

“The California Pear Advisory Board, like all generic marketing order programs, has always been a great public-private partnership,” said David Weiss, Chairman of the California Pear Advisory Board and a pear grower from Lake County.  He explained that mandatory membership and assessments allowed through government oversight enables the Board to represent all pear farmers, and to conduct important research and marketing activities on behalf of the entire California pear industry.   Individuals are then able to take advantage of these programs by incorporating them into their own marketing efforts.

“The new structure of the Pear Board allows each industry member to focus on their core strengths,” continued Pat Scully, of Scully Packing, and another Pear Board member.  He explained that for its part, the Pear Board will continue to conduct production research and to build on the industry’s efforts to foster environmentally-sound farming techniques.  The Board will also provide marketing and category management research and will maintain its consumer education activities and public relations programs.  “This means that projects like the new “Pears Care” breast-cancer awareness campaign begun last year in conjunction with the Susan G. Komen Foundation will continue to be funded and supported by the California Pear Board.”

  “The one thing no commodity board is capable of doing really well is to manage the actual product,” said California Pear Advisory Board member Chiles Wilson of River Maid Trading Company.    “Only a private company has the ability to know exactly how much product they have, when it’s available for sale, how it will be packed and other important factors necessary to truly serve a customer’s supply needs and follow-through with a promotion.  For this reason, the Pear Board will now leave the management of specific retail promotions up to private companies. “

“The result is a new California Pear Board that creates opportunities and takes advantage of everyone’s individual strengths to function better than it ever has before,” concluded Zanobini.  “While it’s true that retail customers will no longer see a merchandising representative from the California Pear Advisory Board, it is very likely they will see more of marketing representatives from the individual pear shipping companies they do business with.  Behind the scenes, these individuals and their customers will have the resources and support of the California Pear Board at their disposal.”

For its part, the California Pear Board will continue to supply retailers with timely crop information. A direct mail and e-mail campaign is planned for the coming season to keep retailers informed and up to date on important issues.  A marketing toolkit is also available to both the industry and the trade on  which offers retail training and education, fruit photography, fruit nutrition information and marketing research reports with key pear category consumer insights.  The Board will also continue to provide consumer education activities as well as the valuable export promotion program which utilizes both industry and federal Market Access Program funding.       

 “At its roots, the word sustainable means to endure,” said Zanobini.  “The California Pear Board is one of the oldest commodity boards in the country.  It’s clear the Board and its growers have endured for years and years. They don’t intend to stop now.”