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The California Blueberry Commission officially marked its first anniversary April 1 as a managing organization. Executive Director Alexander Ott said that the year has been a busy one in terms of both strategic planning and program implementation. "Things seem to be coming together smoothly," he told The Produce News April 4.

 

OttAlexander Ott
The commission was created by an act of the California Legislature and approved by a grower-shipper referendum. The commission is funded through grower assessment and is subject to reauthorization every five years. The next referendum will take place in 2015.

 

After the commission was formed, Mr. Ott said that the industry began moving forward with strategic planning. "The strategic action plan was approved by growers," he stated. "That's key. You give your staff direction. It helps gauge objectives and their fit for the industry."

Mr. Ott said that during the 2010 season, it was a challenge for the industry to find up-to-date information about blueberries. As a result, the commission's top priority in 2011 has been the establishment of the Blueberry Marketing Intelligence Resource Center. "We've been working diligently to establish this for the growers," he said. "It will be up and running in two weeks."

The center will serve as a focal point for information such as blueberry price-point data, volume, inventory and destination shipment. According to Mr. Ott, the data will be updated daily to provide growers and handlers with the most current information available. "The data designers have done a good job [with this]," he stated. The program will be Internet-based and passcode protected.

The commission's second priority in 2011 is to examine the feasibility of opening new export markets. Countries such as Canada, Mexico, Japan and the United Kingdom are all candidates under current exploration.

The commission will look at two other priorities this year. One is to explore grant opportunities to create educational programs promoting California blueberries, and the second is to monitor information about blueberry pests.