MONTEREY, Calif. – The Produce for Better Health Foundation returned to Monterey July 25 to promote a national plan to boost produce consumption.

National produce ad campaign debated
                                            Dawn Withers

Mark Munger, chairman of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, along with Lorri Koster, chairwoman of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California and vice president of marketing for Mann Packing Co., Salinas discussed a proposed national produce marketing campaign at the Produce Marketing Association’s Foodservice Conference & Exposition in Monterey.

The organization has spent months reaching out to the industry about a marketing order that would generate $30 million annually to promote more fruits and vegetables in Americans’ diets. The latest presentation was one of several panels held during the Produce Marketing Association’s Foodservice Conference & Exposition July 24-26.

 â€œWe are competing against a lot of messages,” said PBH chairman Mark Munger of the proposed campaign. Munger, along with Lorri Koster, chairwoman of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California and vice president of marketing for Mann Packing Co., Salinas, held a discussion about the merits and concerns of the program.

Koster said the proposed assessment comes at a tough time for the industry when few companies can afford to pay into such a program. Other methods of funding the campaign, including using government money, should be explored, she said.

The proposed approach would establish a marketing order with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's authority to collect $30 million with a mandatory 0.046 percent assessment (less than 1/20 of 1%) on the f.o.b. market value of all first handlers and importers of both fresh and processed fruits and vegetables.

A six-member foundation task force researched the plan for more than half a year before presenting it during the organization’s annual meeting in Monterey on April 3.

The assessment, about a half-cent per carton for most fresh commodities, would exclude processed potatoes because the promotion order wouldn't promote french fries or potato chips.

Exports would not be assessed, but imports of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables would be. Growers who sell directly to consumers would be exempt.

Depending on industry support, PBH is set to submit the proposal to USDA for industry comment later this year. Growers, importers and other first handlers will likely vote on the measure in 2011. If it passes, assessments could start as early as 2012.