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At its late-October meeting, the Produce for Better Health Foundation's executive committee decided to end its direct involvement in pursuing the development of national promotion board for the fruit and vegetable industry.

At the direction of the committee, PBH staff launched the effort earlier in the year to begin a discussion on the viability of an industrywide, marketing order-type program. Discussions were held throughout the year in various forums with many different stakeholders, including a final town hall meeting at the Produce Marketing Association convention in early October.

At that meeting, Elizabeth Pivonka, president of the foundation, told The Produce News that the executive committee would discuss its six-month effort in earnest at its meeting later in the month to determine if it would continue to pursue the plan.

In a Nov. 4 press release, the foundation announced that the executive committee has concluded that the decision about next steps needs to be in the hands of industry leaders most affected by such a promotion board.

Paul Klutes, director of brand sales for C.H. Robinson and the current chairman of the foundation, said in the press release, "PBH acted as a catalyst to spark the discussion about a national promotion board and we've heard a great deal of valuable feedback from individuals who support the concept as well as from those who oppose it. Our industry survey over the summer highlighted some of the concerns on both sides of the issue. PBH's executive committee believes that only those most affected by such a promotion board can truly decide what is in their best interest moving forward."

The press release went on to say that "several industry leaders have expressed their interest in exploring next steps, and if they come together to do so, it will be at their own initiative and without direct PBH involvement or sponsorship. PBH will share all that has been learned, both positive and negative, with these leaders if they desire, but these individuals will not be bound to follow the recommendations of the PBH Task Force, whose thoughts have framed this discussion since April."

Mr. Klutes added that the foundations role in the discussion was to stimulate the conversation and to provoke industry consideration of the idea. We have accomplished that task, and now it is the time for industry stakeholders, the people who would be writing the checks, to pick up the ball and carry it forward, or not, as they see fit. If there is a decision to move forward, it will be under independent industry leadership; and, at this point, PBH will not play a direct part in that effort."

As envisioned by the PBH executive committee, the promotion board, authorized by an industry vote under the U.S. Department of Agricultures marketing order provisions, would raise $30 million annually through first- handler assessments of less than one-twentieth of 1 percent of the market value of all fruits and vegetables. A board would be appointed to oversee the development of a generic promotion program that would promote fruits and vegetables in much the way that PBH touts increased consumption through its current More Matters campaign and its previous Five A Day effort.