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California flower group wins vote to continue

by John S. Niblock | March 24, 2010
The margin was a tiny bit smaller than it was five years ago, but the California Cut Flower Commission has won a referendum that will allow it to continue in operation through December 2015.

Jay van Rein, a spokesman for the California Department of Food & Agriculture, which tallied the votes, told The Produce News March 25 that 30 growers approved continuation and 26 opposed it. Only about 60 of the state's 250 flower growers, those with annual sales of more than $500,000, were qualified to vote.

"I am pleased to continue the important work of the CCFC," Hans Brand, commission chairman and owner of B&H Flowers in Carpinteria, CA, said in a press release. "The commission works to do for all of us what none of us could accomplish alone. It unites California flower farmers, [and] provides industry leadership and a voice at the table where decisions are being made that affect our bottom lines."

The margin for this year's referendum, held by mail between Feb. 15 and March 16, was 55.6 percent to 46.4 percent. That compares to results of a 2005 referendum of 31-24, or 56.4 percent to 43.6 percent.

A public hearing was held Dec. 2, 2009, in San Jose, demanded by a group of cut-flower growers, to determine if an election should be held immediately. The petitioners withdrew their request at the hearing.

The commission was established in 1990 by state law as an agency under the wing of the state ag department, funded through a marketing order that assesses fees from growers based on their revenues. A referendum must be held every five years to determine whether the commission should continue.

The state agency has approval power over the commission's budget, which this year is about $925,000. Dennis Manderfield, a senior agricultural economist with the department, serves as liaison to the commission and attends its meetings.

In January, the commission presented its annual business and progress report to growers at meetings hosted by local commissioners in four flower- growing regions of the state. In 2009 the group presented an economic impact report, began planning for a consolidated shipping arrangement near Oxnard and issued "hint cards" as a marketing tool for growers and retailers.