(Feb. 22) Richard Matoian, manager of the California Fig Advisory Board, Fresno, Calif., and a long-time leader in California’s produce industry, has been selected as the executive director of the Western Pistachio Association, Fresno.

Matoian will be introduced to members at the association’s annual meeting Feb. 25-26 in Monterey, said Michael Woolf, chairman of the association’s board of directors.

Matoian said his immediate goals include bringing cohesiveness to the organization and attracting additional growers.

“The amount of bearing acres in California alone is going to nearly double in the near future,” Matoian said. “We have 116,000 bearing acres now and will have 177,000 bearing acres in about five years. Planning programs for that kind of volume must start now.”

The Western Pistachio Association, formerly based in Washington, D.C., was reinvigorated last year after growers voted to dissolve the California Pistachio Commission, caused in large measure by the cost of fighting a lawsuit filed by a major grower-shipper. Paramount Farms, Los Angeles, filed the lawsuit in 2005, challenging the constitutionality of commission-imposed mandatory assessments. Paramount claimed assessments for generic promotions infringed upon its First Amendment rights.

The association will not focus on generic advertising activities, but will continue the emphasis on nutritional research and promotion, Matoian said. Unlike a commodity board or marketing order, it is not barred by statute from lobbying, which Matoian said would be an important component of the association’s activities. Trade and tariff issues, labor, pesticide use and availability and adequate irrigation water supplies are key issues for the association, he said.

The association moved its headquarters to Fresno last July. In addition to California, the association has members in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Last year, pistachio volume in California, the only state for which the association has production data, was 415 million pounds, Woolf said.

Before joining the Fig Advisory Board, Matoian was president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, Fresno.

Matoian is scheduled to assume his new duties May 1, a delay designed to ensure a smooth transition at the fig board, he said.

The fig board members plan to schedule a meeting to determine how to find a successor, he said.

Since becoming more active in the industry, the pistachio association has approved a new logo and launched a Web site, www. westernpistachio.org.