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Produce Business

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American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur



Neither United Nor PMA Represent Production Agriculture

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, July 30, 2012

A line in our piece United/PMA Impasse More Than Just A Decision About A CEO — It Is A Battle For The Soul Of The New Association caught the eye of a frequent Pundit contributor:

"United is perceived as the organization with the core responsibility for lobbying on behalf of the production agriculture base of the produce industry in Washington, DC."

Very interesting comment. My perception of both organizations has always been that neither had much membership from, nor understood/represented very well, the needs of production agriculture, in Washington or elsewhere.

The "base" of both are represented much more by wholesale selling/shipping and retail segments of the industry than by farmers/producers.

Richard W. VanVranken
Agricultural Agent
County Extension Department Head
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
of Atlantic County

Rutgers University
Mays Landing, New Jersey

Rick has contributed to many pieces including these:

Pundit Mailbag — Getting A Handle On Direct-to-Consumer Programs

Pundit’s Mailbag — Letters Pour In On CSPI’s Highly Deceptive Riskiest Foods List

Troublesome Traceability Letters From PMA Veiled As Being Sent From Buyers

In the produce industry, there are many growers and, numerically, few of these are members of any national trade association.

Typically the membership begins at the packer-shipper level. However, the largest growers tend to also do their own packing and marketing. So a company such as Paramount Citrus owns, cultivates and harvests more than 42,000 acres of fresh citrus. In other words, these associations can have few grower members and still represent a big chunk of grower acreage.

Even in those cases where the packer-shipper does not actually farm — say a co-op such as Sunkist – it is reasonable to think that the co-op is using its participation in the national associations to look out for the interests of its growers.

There are also crop-specific or regional associations — say the California Grape & Tree Fruit League or the Northwest Horticultural Council — that engage actively with the national associations specifically to make sure that the priorities of their members are given a voice on the national stage.

In general, the issues that are generic to many types of farming get a lot of focus from the State Farm Bureaus, and issues that are more specific to produce growers often get the attention of the produce associations at regional, state and national levels.

Still when it comes to advocacy, it is a bit of sticky wicket. The national associations are representing the interests of many growers who are not actually members of the associations.

Think of it as a kind of indirect democracy. Just as before the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment, senators were not directly elected by the people but, instead, were elected by each state’s legislature. So the packer-shippers are representing their growers.

Of course, if the issue is a dispute between packer-shippers and their growers, such an issue can be problematic for the national associations.

Many thanks to Rick VanVranken for his eagle eye.

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