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After 96 years of continuous operation, the Fruit Growers League, based on Oregon's Rogue Valley, has ceased operation.

The organization was founded in 1913, and its membership numbered as many as 400 people and businesses involved with pear production in Jackson County. The area is known for the Comice pear.

The organization of orchardists initially came together to fight fire blight, a bacterial disease that kills pear and apple trees. As the league evolved, it continued to address other issues affecting growers, such as land use, pest control and air quality. In these efforts, the league engaged public officials at all levels of government.

As is true with other segments of the produce industry, the agricultural landscape has changed over the years for pear producers. Industry consolidation resulted in the creation of larger pear producers, whose business plans and goals did not mesh with those of smaller producers. Funding became an issue for the organization as producers' goals diverged.

The initial vote to disband was taken this past December, and the organization's final meeting was held in late January. The office in Medford, OR, is officially closed, and plans call for league business to be wrapped up by June 1.

Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of the Pear Bureau Northwest in Milwaukie, OR, praised the organization for its contributions to the pear industry.

"The Medford growing district in southern Oregon has a long history of growing and shipping top-quality pears worldwide," he told The Produce News. "The Fruit Growers League played an important role in addressing the issues facing the industry and bringing the growers together to address local and international topics, opportunities and problems."