Industry veteran Richard Matoian has been selected as executive director of the Western Pistachio Association (WPA), headquartered in Fresno, Calif.

From its inception in 1980, WPA has served the US pistachio industry by representing the interests of growers in a variety of areas. With the demise of the California Pistachio Commission last June in a grower referendum, WPA's directors led by Chairman Michael T. Woolf, Woolf Farming, Fresno, and Vice Chairman Brian Blackwell, Pioneer Nursery, Bakersfield, immediately stepped in to expand membership and programs, ensuring vital work continued in areas such as production research, nutritional research, and promotion and governmental affairs.

“We are very happy to have found a leader with Richard's experience,” said Woolf. “He will be a tremendous asset in advancing the interests of the U.S. pistachio industry.”

Blackwell added, “I look forward to working with Richard. He is an extremely credible individual with a long history of successes in agriculture. His many talents will be utilized working to solve challenges U.S. pistachio growers face with increasing bearing acreage, Western water issues and competition in a worldwide marketplace.”

For the past five years, Matoian has been manager of the California Fig Advisory Board, a state marketing order focused on promoting California-grown figs.

Previously he served as president, California Grape & Tree Fruit League, a statewide trade association, representing the table grape and tree fruit industries.

Matoian will officially begin his duties with WPA on May 1.

In 2007, the pistachio industry produced a record crop of over 415 million pounds on over 115,000 producing acres. Pistachios are grown throughout the U.S. and in 22 California counties, with the highest production in Kern, Madera, Kings, Tulare, and Fresno Counties.

WPA is the only pistachio organization representing all U.S. growers' interests. It is governed by an 18-member board elected from a variety of states with the shared goal of increasing the long-term profitability of the U.S. pistachio industry.