The California Strawberry Commission's board of directors approved a $6.1 million budget for marketing, research and public affairs programs at the January meeting in Newport Beach, Calif. In addition, California Secretary of State Bill Jones was featured as a guest speaker at the meeting.

“This meeting was the launch of our 2002 season,” said Cindy Jewell, executive vice president. “We're excited about our the new programs and promotions and have an energetic staff who bring professionalism and enthusiasm to their work.”

Of the programs approved, the marketing program represents the largest segment of the commission's budget. The program's major elements include continued emphasis on category management data, advertising incentive programs for retailers and working with opinion leaders to increase strawberry usage among foodservice operations.

The board also approved expanding the commission merchandisers' role in 2002. Each merchandiser will be assigned “shipper accounts” so that the same customer service available to retailers and foodservice operators will now be available to shippers. “Both shippers and retailers will benefit from a program that expands the merchandisers' industry knowledge,” said Michelle Story, commission merchandiser.

The commission's board has also approved the California Strawberry Commission's participation in the “Buy California” program. This program, made up of various commodity boards throughout the state, will facilitate direct consumer advertising and education programs to promote the purchase of California commodities within the state. The commission board also approved an export program to increase product exposure in Hong Kong, Mexico, Canada and Japan in 2002.

The agricultural research program will continue to support agricultural research projects that help develop farming systems to reduce costs and increase efficiencies, as well as represent the California strawberry industry in the regulatory and public policy arena. The research includes projects focusing on plant breeding, disease and pest control as well as methyl bromide alternatives.

California Secretary Jones, a native California rancher from Fresno, touched on the necessity of society's understanding of the importance and challenges of agriculture and water issues in California.