(April 16) A simpler, consolidated marketing order for Northwest pears may be coming.

Fresh and processed pear producers, in public hearings April 13 and 14, said they saw value in combining their marketing orders.

Testifying at U.S. Department of Agriculture hearings in Yakima, Wash., on a proposed single federal market-ing order, representatives from the Oregon and Washington fresh and processed pear industries voiced strong support for amendments to Marketing Order 927, the Winter Pear Control Committee, that likely would render Marketing Order 931, the Northwest Fresh Bartlett Marketing Committee, redundant.

Under that scenario, pear producers could eliminate No. 931.

A third and final hearing was scheduled for April 16 in Portland, Ore.

“It (931) had basically been set up to collect funds for research for the bartlett side,” said Kevin Moffitt, presi-dent and chief executive officer of the Milwaukie, Ore.-based Pear Bureau Northwest and manager of both mar-keting orders.

The Winter Pear Control Committee locally administers the order. The Northwest Fresh Bartlett Marketing Committee administers the program regulating summer/fall bartlett pears grown in Oregon and Washington.

TWO COMBINED

The proposal aims to combine the two fresh pear-marketing orders and extend coverage to pears for process-ing. Authority to establish minimum quality and size requirements for fresh pears would continue, while pears for processing would be subject only to assessments to fund research and promotion activities.

“One observation is that all witnesses have testified in support of the proposal,” said Mike Durando, USDA’s chief of marketing order administration branch under the agency’s fruit and vegetable programs. “So there ap-pears to be strong industry support.”

Under the current system, about 1,800 producers in both states pay mandatory 33.5 cents per 44-pound box in assessments to Marketing Order 931 and 49 cents per 44-pound box to No. 927.

Washington growers also pay fees to the Washington State Fruit Commission, and Oregon growers pay as-sessments to the Oregon Bartlett Pear Commission.

Pear Bureau Northwest collects all assessments, totaling about $8 million per year for promotions and con-sumer research. The Winter Pear Control Committee manages pre-harvest research.

MAYBE FOR 2005

Moffitt said that under a theoretical schedule, assuming that the amendments are approved, growers could vote on the issue by sometime in the spring of 2005.

Two-thirds approval could bring about a new marketing order, perhaps, in time for the 2005 crop, Moffitt said.

“We’re hoping that we could get the ballots out by February,” he said.

Changes also would call for new budgets, committees and other USDA-approved changes.

BOWING OUT

Were such changes to take place, the Oregon Bartlett Pear Commission likely would disappear, and the Wash-ington State Fruit Commission likely would bow out of the fresh pear business, Moffitt said.

Approval might even touch the Pear Bureau Northwest, he added.

“I’d hope they’d keep us as the promotional arm,” Moffitt said. “Either way, I’d expect to continue as manager of the marketing order. I’d continue to run the promotion programs through the pear bureau.”