The USDA has announced the results of the continuance referendum for the federal marketing orders for California, peaches, nectarines and pears. The peach and nectarine orders will be ended, though the pear order will continue. Even though a majority of growers voting favor continuing the marketing orders, those growers represented a minority of the peach and nectarine volume. From the release:

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2011 -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced that it will terminate the marketing order programs for California nectarines and peaches.

From Jan. 12-Feb. 2, 2011, three separate referenda were conducted. Under the terms of the marketing orders, growers vote every four years on whether to continue their programs. USDA considers termination if less than a two-thirds majority of growers voting, by number and production volume, favor continuance.

Among growers of nectarines, peaches and fresh pears, 63 percent of nectarine growers, who produced 36 percent of the volume represented in the referendum, favored continuance. Sixty-two percent of peach growers, who produced 36 percent of the volume, favored continuance. Ninety-four percent of pear growers, representing 99 percent of the volume, favored continuance.

The nectarine order has been in effect since 1958, and the combined peach and fresh pear order has been in effect since 1939. Over the years, the orders have been used to provide quality standards for tree fruit shipped into fresh markets. Production research and marketing research and promotion programs have also been conducted under the orders.

USDA will seek to suspend all nectarine and peach handling regulations for the 2011 season. Termination proceedings for the nectarine and peach order provisions will begin immediately. There are no plans to terminate the pear order provisions, which have been suspended since 1994.

TK: There is no doubt the mission and reach of the federal marketing order for peaches and nectarines were downsized in recent years, but I have got to wonder if the loss of the federal marketing order will hamstring the ability of the industry to collect statistics about the crop and organize generic export promotion efforts. Do readers feel this vote is primarily a reflection of the economic stress on the tree fruit industry? What will the USDA's decision mean to the market place? Stay tuned for more coverage on this issue from The Packer.