Jeff Colombini, who chaired the California Cherry Advisory Board, is secretary-treasurer of the new organization that replaces it.

Jeff Colombini, who chaired the California Cherry Advisory Board, is secretary-treasurer of the new organization that replaces it.

A new marketing and research organization representing all California sweet cherry growers went into effect on April 2.

The California Cherry Marketing and Research Program supersedes the California Cherry Advisory Board, which had represented growers of Bing, Rainier, Van, and Lambert cherries since 1993. During the past 20 years, production of Van and Lambert has declined and there’s been tremendous growth of the cherry industry in the San Joaquin Valley where varieties more suited to the hot climate are grown, with the result that the board represented less than half the state’s cherry production.

The Cherry Advisory board would have required a continuation referendum this spring. Instead, the state’s 740 growers and 18 packers were asked to vote on the creation of the new organization to represent all cherry production in the state. Of the 422 growers voting, 84 percent were in favor of the program, and they represented 85 percent of the volume. Of the 15 packers voting, 93 percent were in favor and they represented about 95 percent of the volume.

For the referendum to pass, at least 40 percent of the growers and packers needed to vote and 65 percent of those voting, representing at least 51 percent of the volume, had to be in favor.

The new program is administered by a board of six packers and six growers appointed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. At the first board meeting on April 6, Chiles Wilson of Rivermaid Trading Company in Lodi was elected chair. Jeff Colombini, who had served as chair of the California Cherry Advisory Board, was elected secretary-treasurer. Chris Zanobini, president of Ag Association Management Services in Sacramento, is manager.

The program will collect an assessment of 15 cents per 18-pound pack, half of which will come from the grower and the other half from the packer. Colombini said no estimate of the 2012 crop is available yet. The southern part of the state seems to have a lighter crop than normal because of a lack of chill, and in the northern areas, it is still too early to tell. Rainy and windy weather during bloom had not been favorable for pollination.

The new organization will conduct research on cherries and a generic export promotion program. It will not conduct domestic promotions, which the Advisory Board had done in the past. Even on the export market, in-store promotions with retailers will be left to the packing houses, Colombini said.