Soon, “Got Pecans?” may be as familiar to American consumers as “Got Milk?” The American pecan industry could have its own U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) marketing order as soon as 2016.
The Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commission for Pecans, known as the Georgia Pecan Commission, supports a federal marketing order (FMO) that would authorize the promotion, data collection and research activities of pecans in 15 states, including Georgia, which is the largest producer of pecans in the United States.
The USDA has three hearings about the order scheduled this month in New Mexico, Texas and Georgia. The Georgia hearing takes place July 27-29 in Tifton, where pecan growers and other industry stakeholders, including handlers and shellers, will have an opportunity to testify regarding the benefits, costs and other potential impacts of the proposed marketing order.
“Our overriding objective is to increase the demand for pecans by growing the domestic and worldwide market,” says Commission Chairman Thomas L. Mason, owner of Mason Pecan in Fort Valley, Ga. “Producers of other tree nuts such as pistachios and almonds already operate under marketing orders, which has allowed farmers to work together to promote their products. The FMO will level the playing field by allowing our industry to speak with one voice.”
Our overriding objective is to increase the demand for pecans by growing the domestic and worldwide market
An FMO has been discussed for years, but this move to create on began about two years ago with the formation of the American Pecan Board, says Mike Adams, a Texas pecan grower for 30 years and president of the board.
“We have a great story to tell, and we needed a better way to tell it,” says Adams. “Pecans have great health benefits, and our commodity is equally favored—in some cases preferred—to our sister tree nuts. The benefits of a marketing order will facilitate our telling that story, and the result will be increased meat prices for shellers, more net dollars for handlers, and higher farm prices for growers.”
“Catching the vision of what we can be is important,” he adds. “It’s a grand opportunity that we have not been taking advantage of. “
In 1960, the pecan industry was larger than the almond industry, which got an FMO in the 1950s. Today, says Adams, the almond industry is 33 times larger than it was in the 1960s while the pecan industry is about the same. Demand, price and supply for almonds have increased, thanks to marketing. Pistachios, which also have an FMO, have followed the same trajectory.
“Eight years ago pistachios were even with pecans in terms of crop size. They increased their marketing spending from $400,000 to $10 million in one year, and supply and demand took off,” says Adams, who has led the move to establish an FMO. “Almonds and pistachios are a real-world example that marketing works.”
The FMO will establish the American Pecan Council with 17 members representing growers, shellers and two at-large members, all selected by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
The council, with the approval of the Agriculture Secretary, can set up programs for product and container development, production and nutritional research, marketing research, and marketing promotion, including paid advertising, to increase the consumption of pecans. The council will also be able to collect fees to fund these programs.
Adams and members of the American Pecan Board, including Georgia growers Randy Hudson of Ocilla and Larry Willson of Albany, have found that support is strong for a USDA marketing order, and a possible vote on the FMO could be held as early as the spring of 2016. For the marketing order to pass, either two-thirds of the qualified growers voting must vote in favor of the order or the number of favorable votes cast by growers must represent two-thirds of the production volume voting.
Qualified growers would be defined as those producing a minimum of 50,000 pounds of in-shell pecans during a production year or owning a minimum of 30 pecan acres as recognized by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
While final assessment rates won’t be determined until after the referendum is passed and the council is seated, preliminary proposed rates for three categories of pecans are: 1-2 cents/in-shell pound for native and seedling varieties; 1-2 cents/in-shell pound for sub-standard pecans; and 2-3 cents/in-shell pound for improved varieties.
“I’ve talked to a lot of Georgia producers, both large and small, and had a lot of positive response,” says Adams, who made more than 10 presentations about the FMO to Georgians involved in the industry. “The FMO is an investment in operations just like buying fertilizer. An investment in the FMO is marketing costs that will be returned to our industry in benefits of increased demand and supply.”
To learn more about the proposed market order, please visit the American Pecan Board.
Program Manager, Center for Pecan Innovation