(Sept. 30) REEDLEY, Calif. — A little effort, apparently, went a long way in prompting Coachella-based Sun World International Inc. to drop a 2-year-old lawsuit against the California Plum Marketing Board.

Sun World had filed the action against the plum marketing board in 2001, charging the latter with having violated the company’s First Amendment rights of free speech.

California Department of Food and Agriculture officials confirmed that the parties had reached an agreement and that Sun World had dropped the case.

Details of the settlement were not disclosed. Tim Shaheen, Sun World’s president and chief executive officer, declined to disclose details of the settlement but acknowledged that the plum marketing board and its administrative parent, the California Tree Fruit Agreement, agreed to pay Sun World $54,000 that the company claimed it was owed.

Meanwhile, commodity groups such as the plum board have been under fire from some growers who contend the group’s practice of collecting mandatory fees for advertising violates their First Amendment rights.

The CTFA and the plum marketing board continue to face court challenges that include a lawsuit by Reedley-based Gerawan Farming that is before the California Supreme Court. Gerawan also is challenging peach and nectarine marketing programs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture administrative hearing system.