Pear growers vote on marketing order
Pear Bureau Northwest organizes research, promotions
By DAN WHEAT
The Pear Bureau Northwest is working more closely with shippers on pear promotions that it hopes will help convince growers to renew its federal marketing order next month.
The USDA mails ballots Feb. 26 to about 2,000 pear growers in Washington and Oregon asking whether they want to renew federal marketing order No. 927 for the next six years.
Ballots are due back March 11. A 66 percent affirmative vote is needed to keep the Pear Bureau in Milwaukie, Ore., in business with promotions and to keep pear research going with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission in Wenatchee.
The marketing order, which dates back to 1937, gives industry committees for fresh and processed pears authority to set and collect per-box assessments on growers to pay for promotions and research.
Kevin Moffitt, president of the Pear Bureau, is optimistic about passage as the measure received a 90 percent "yes" vote in 2005. He said the Pear Bureau began working more closely with shippers last year in response to shipper discontent and that those changes should help the vote.
"Happier shippers should make for happier growers," he said.
Consolidation of tree fruit companies now means about 10 groups control 90 percent of the pear volume in Washington and Oregon, Moffitt said. The groups wanted more say in how Pear Bureau domestic retail promotion dollars are spent, he said.
An industry summit was held in early 2010 and the Pear Bureau changed its policies in the summer and fall.
"When a shipper sets up a promotion with a retailer they can contact us and ask if we have any activities we can align with them," Moffitt said.
"Before promotional requests came from retailers. Now they can come from shippers. That's big. That's healthy," he said.
The Pear Bureau also notifies shippers when it is doing promotions with retailers that shippers work with.
"In the past our policies didn't allow this much coordination. It wasn't necessary. Now, with fewer people controlling the market it was time to update," Moffitt said.
Growers are assessed 50.1 cents per 44-pound box of winter pears sold with 44 cents of that going to the Pear Bureau for advertising and promotion. The rest is divided between research, 3.1 cents per box, and operational expenses, 3 cents per box.
The assessment on summer and fall pears is 36.6 cents per box with 30 cents going to the Pear Bureau for advertising and promotion, 3.1 cents going to research and 3.5 cents to operational expenses.
On a 17.5-million-box crop, the Pear Bureau gets about $7.2 million from assessments. The rest of its annual budget revenue is $3.5 million in federal Market Access Program money for export promotions.
"Without the marketing order and the assessments the Pear Bureau probably would be gone. We would have no funds to support our programs," Moffitt said.
The marketing order includes further assessments of $7 per ton for promotions from processing pears and $1 per ton for research, said B.J. Thurlby, president of the Washington State Fruit Commission in Yakima.
Promotions through the Pacific Northwest Canned Pear Service, which Thurlby heads, are aimed at food service and restaurants in the United States and Canada.
About $600,000 to $700,000 is raised annually for promotions and $100,000 to $120,000 for research, Thurlby said.