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Working together makes us all more successful. The fresh pear industry in the Pacific Northwest is finishing the season with some of the best returns in a decade. While weather will always plays a role, this year’s returns follow four straight years of steadily increasing prices per ton for the fresh pear crop, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. While the strong new programs and analysis implemented by the Pear Bureau in the past six years have been a key to this success, much can be attributed to the ways in which the industry is working with its partners to grow stronger and healthier.

Within the industry, the Pear Bureau’s marketing team and regional managers work closely with the shippers and sales desks in the role of the marketing arm in the fresh pear category. We communicate with the industry through our secure Web site and cooperate through a policy that defines how grower funds, collected through the federal marketing order, can be leveraged with shipper funds to increase overall promotion efficacy. The policy states how a retailer can alert the Pear Bureau that a particular shipper is a key partner-supplier, thereby allowing the bureau to work with the shipper and the retailer together in planning activities and promotion timing.

In addition, we are seeing increased collaboration among shippers. For example, the marketing cooperatives have evolved into a strong tool. Their discussions allow the members to have a more complete picture of the entire market, which creates a better environment in which to make decisions.

The Northwest Horticultural Council is another key player that not only helps us open new markets around the world, but fights to keep those markets open. In addition, the Hort Council works to protect our domestic market, working with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and groups such as TreeTAC to ensure that imports are free of harmful pests and diseases that could hurt our domestic production.

Research

On the research front, we will soon be starting our third year in the new marketing order structure, and we are cooperating with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, which administers the nearly $700,000 that the pear industry collects through the marketing order for pest management, preharvest, storage, and other important research projects. Equally important team members in this arena include the many dedicated scientists who conduct the research and the important network of Extension agents who help implement the research.

We also work closely with the USDA, not only through our marketing order, but in programs such as the Market Access Program. Through this competitive grant process, the Pear Bureau has been awarded over $30 million in funding since the program’s inception. These funds have helped us expand our exports from about 12 percent in 1985 to 35 percent of the crop today.

Working with other industry groups and trade associations on issues of mutual importance is critical. The Pear Bureau represents the industry on many associations, including: United Fresh, the Produce for Better Health Foundation, the Produce Marketing Association, the Organic Trade Association, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, and the Agricultural Export Development Council. Through these groups, we collaborate with other organizations to amplify our voice on issues such as the farm bill, food safety, nutrition, and health issues. Through this focus, the produce industry as a whole has developed a stronger voice on federal issues, which benefits our pear industry. An example of how well this is working is the upcoming farm bill, which will carry more programs for specialty crop growers than any farm bill before it.

WAPA

On the international front, we collaborate with the major pear-producing countries in the world through the World Apple and Pear Association. This group has emerged as a powerful voice on issues important to pear and apple producers worldwide as well as helping to disseminate production information and forecasts. The association also works on nutrition research, activities to increase consumption of apples and pears, and worldwide public relations.

On the Pear Bureau side, we are collaborating with new partners, or with existing partners in new ways, to increase awareness and fresh pear consumption. In addition to our continuing mainstream retail and consumer programs, the Pear Bureau has been introducing innovative ways of reaching the consumer, including: pear sampling in Disney World; working with chefs through our Pear Panache program; distributing health and flavor messages on pharmacy bags; and maintaining the world’s largest Web site dedicated to fresh pears at www.usapears.org.

In addition, we compile and maintain a large database of information that we use when partnering with retailers to develop effective promotions. By collaborating with retailers, we are able to supply them with customized information about their pear category, compare their performance to their competitors, and offer programs that will increase pear sales and profits in their stores.

The Pear Bureau celebrated its 75th year of industry collaboration in 2006, and our industry continues to strengthen. Collaboration can take time and involves trust and transparency with open and candid dialogue. I’m committed to working within our existing network while building new alliances because we are all more successful when we work together.

Kevin Moffitt is president and chief executive officer of the Pear Bureau Northwest and also manages the Fresh Pear Committee, a federal marketing order for pears. He can be reached atkmoffitt@usapears.com.