What is in this article?:
- Wine grape crop poised for record sales
- Strength in numbers
- Allied Grape Growers may be headed for its highest sales revenue in 15 years.
- Price for Thompson Seedless grapes sold to concentrate could hit record $300 per ton.
- "If it looks like a grape, smells like a grape and tastes like a grape, we have the demand to sell it."
From left, Dave Westerholm, a consultant on negotiation skills; Nat DiBuduo, president and CEO of Allied Grape Growers; and DiBuduo’s son, Marcus DiBuduo, a patent attorney.
Strength in numbers
With help from the Prune Bargaining Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the video was developed as a tool of persuasion to strengthen the hand of cooperatives and bargaining associations. It’s a cautionary tale of how the bargaining power of growers can be weakened if they lack unity and don’t use the powers given them by the federal Capper-Volstead Act.
Westerholm calls his approach “low-key, high yield persuasion” and has conducted workshops with the Allied’s staff and its board of directors. After the Fresno presentation, he did a workshop for the Tulare County Farm Bureau.
DiBuduo said a winery representative urged him to seek out advice from Westerholm, and at the annual meeting DiBuduo urged other winery representatives to do likewise.
Westerholm recommends moving away from responses that can include “anger and sulking” in confrontational situations and said alternatives to those “default positions’ are more likely “to be efficient in drawing someone to the conclusion you wish.”
Remaining calm is a key, he said. “Emotions are strategic, but badly so.”
The “Pear Growers’ Dilemma” is a centerpiece for illustrating what can happen in the absence of association members failing to recognize strength in numbers and bargaining power that can bring.
The California Pear Growers Association, which has since regrouped, dissolved after splintering within its membership when Signature Fruit sent letters urging members to leave the association and enter into five-year contracts.
In the documentary, former association manager Terry Barton said “fear” was at the root of the group’s dissolution. Members and others feared they would not find a home for their pears if they did not give in to five-year contracts at a stipulated price.
In the film, Rich Sexton, an agriculture economist with the UC Davis, said the awareness and exercise of Capper-Volstead rights is an important part of maintaining “a robust, competitive marketplace.”
Westerholm joked that his instruction of Allied directors and others amounted to “charm school for the charmless.”
In fact, “charm, persistence, listening and patience” are among qualities he favors for persuasion. He also favors asking questions rather than “lecturing.”
Anticipating a confrontation is important, Westerholm said, citing an example of a husband-wife conflict.
With bargaining associations, he said, there can be some resentment about so-called “free riders,” non-members who may benefit from pricing set by the associations.
“But most non-members are gettable,” he said. “They’re not non-joiners; they’re in churches and other organizations. They have to be asked in the right way.”
Sometimes hard feelings linger, Westerholm said, and can be resurrected as a reason not to join an association. He cited the statement: “Somebody on the board got my grandfather angry back in ’64.”
An argument against that, as DiBuduo volunteered: “That was then and this is now.”
Westerholm said it can also be argued that “if this is in your business interest that outweighs what happened 50 years ago.”
Then there’s the non-member objection that he or she objects to a certain action the association has taken. Westerholm gave the example of objections to the Tulare County Farm Bureau’s support of Dianne Feinstein for the U.S. Senate.
“It may be strategically smart, but that’s a time to go to the other stuff the Farm Bureau is doing — say I can’t make you happy on that one,” he said. “Any group with more than one member is going to find something objectionable. But let the person keep the prejudice.”