Calif. walnut growers vote to keep marketing order
FOLSOM, Calif. — Growers have voted overwhelmingly to continue the work of the California Walnut Board, which handles production research and other projects.
Among the roughly 4,500 walnut growers eligible to vote, 95 percent of those who voted approved of the marketing order that mandates the 66-year-old board, whose vast duties range from varietal development and pest control to domestic marketing and inspection oversight.
Ninety-three percent of the volume represented in the April referendum favored continuing the efforts of the board, which was facing its first vote since governance changes took effect in 2008.
The board works in tandem with the California Walnut Commission, which does international marketing and funds health research. The commission would not have been affected by the vote.
“It was gratifying to know that the growers obviously recognize that the board has provided a service to them and to the industry,” said Dennis Balint, the board’s executive officer who also serves as the commission’s chief executive officer.
Voting by mail took place April 1-19, and those eligible to vote were growers who were producing walnuts between Sept. 1, 2012 and Aug. 31, 2013. The referendum needed a two-thirds majority to pass.
The USDA required a grower referendum on the board’s work every six years as part of changes necessitated when Diamond Foods switched from a cooperative to a corporation in 2005, Balint has said.
While growers pay handlers a penny per pound of in-shell walnuts to support the commission, the California Department of Food and Agriculture sends monthly bills to handlers to collect the $1.89-per-kernel-hundredweight assessment that supports the board.
The vote came as 91 percent of almond growers voted this spring to maintain the federal marketing order for the Almond Board of California. That panel faces a referendum every five years.
Balint said the boards’ research and promotion efforts have helped build demand for California nuts, which has fueled their success.
“Certainly in our industry, it’s important to build demand,” Balint said. “When demand is ahead of supply, you have a good situation.”
California Walnuts: http://www.walnuts.org