USDA followed that low voter turnout with a series of hearings in May to further gauge support for the orders, and apparently the department was convinced that the industry wanted to continue the orders. It has given the order a reprieve until the next referendum scheduled for 2006.

“We are very pleased USDA has recognized the support for these programs throughout the industry and has elected to continue the orders,” said Blair Richardson, president of the California Tree Fruit Agreement, based in Reedley, Calif.; which administers marketing programs on behalf of California tree fruit producers.

“Those who spoke at the listening sessions in May identified the order’s promotional programs, research activities, quality regulations and data collection as benefits to growers and handlers.”

Richardson took over the helm of CTFA in April 2002 and made it his primary goal to understand the needs of the industry and to structure future programs to meet those needs.

“This new focus came at the request of CTFA committee members and industry leaders,” noted Richardson, adding that a new Marketing Order Amendment Task Force has been appointed and is currently reviewing all aspects of the peach, plum and nectarine orders with an eye toward making further improvements necessary to meet the changing needs of the industry.

Richardson also noted that a standing Strategic Planning Subcommittee has been formed to ensure CTFA programs stay on track and that they address key issues of importance to the industry.

“CTFA has made many new changes to meet the needs of growers, packers and shippers in the past year,” said Todd Barsoom, chairman of the Nectarine Administrative Committee. “We have established a series of district grower meetings to gather industry input, restructured the subcommittees to ensure better representation throughout the industry, made significant changes in the domestic promotion programs and we are now in the process of thoroughly reviewing the inspection program.

“These are significant steps and we expect they will result in even greater support for the programs in years ahead.”

Richardson added that there are many other new changes ahead to make the programs even better and more responsive to the industry.

“This organization belongs to the members of this industry, and CTFA works on behalf of these members to assure the grower-funded programs provide a positive return on their investment,” said Richardson. “CTFA will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of our members, and we welcome input from everyone in the industry as we strive to overcome the many challenges facing us.”

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com