2018 Raisin Price Still in Limbo

Discussions Continue Over Raisin Price

News Release Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh

The Board of Directors of the Fresno-based Raisin Bargaining Association have offered to sell the 2018 Natural Seedless Raisin Crop for $2,250.00 per ton. Also, the board has offered to sell both the 2018 & 2019 crops for $2,150.00 per ton. This 2-year Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U.) at $2,150.00 per ton has safeguards in it for the second year in case there are changes that could force the raisin price to go higher or lower, with a lower bottom not to fall below $2,000.00 per ton.

Last year, they had 12 signatory packers agree to the M.O.U. negotiated at $1,800.00 per ton. This year, they have been instructed that Sun-Maid has rejected both the $2,250.00 one year contract and the $2,150.00 two year contract. They have also advised the RBA to try and move the 2,000 tons of RBA growers to other packers, which we are in the process of doing.

Of the remaining 11 packers, 6 have agreed to accept the $2,150.00 2-year plan. Those six packers are Central California Packing Company, Chooljian Brothers Packing Company, Inc., Del Rey Packing Company, National Raisin Company, River Ranch Raisins, LLC., and Sun Valley Raisins, Inc.

The 5 remaining packers who have rejected both the one year price at $2,250.00 per ton and the $2,150.00 per ton two-year M.O.U. include: Boghosian Raisin Packing Company, Inc., Caruthers Raisin Packing Company, Inc., Fresno Cooperative Raisin Growers, Inc., Lion Raisins, and Victor Packing Company.

In the discussion with the packers who have not agreed to M.O.U. terms, their arguments were that the $2,250.00 price was too high and the $2,150.00 price was acceptable but not for 2 years. Discussions will continue until Friday, October 12. For updates please go to our website at www.RaisinBargainingAssociation.com and click on the “From the Office” tab.

Mariani Packing Co. Puts Food Safety Top Priority

Mariani Served as Chair of the Safe Food Alliance

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The Mariani Packing Company is one of the largest specialty crop growers and handlers in the state, packing many different types of fruit on a massive scale. California Ag Today recently spoke with Mark Mariani, executive chairman of the Mariani packing company in Vacaville and the outgoing chairman of the Safe Food Alliance (SFA), an organization specializing in food safety among growers, packers, and processers to maintain high standards of food safety and prevent consumer illness.

“Our four major specialty crops areas is that we’re the second largest cranberry growers (with operations back east) and packers, (with operations back east), and we also grow and pack mangoes out of Mexico, Mariani said. “And we are probably the third-largest raisin grower/packer in California. We also repack prunes for the world market.”

Mariani said that the products that they bring in from Mexico are held to the same standard as produce grown inside the United States. Consumers always look back at the supplier when it comes to food safety, so they ensure that standards meet or exceed the U.S. standards.

Mariani reflected on his part in the Safe Food Alliance organization.

“It’s an exciting time for DFA (which still stands as an entity as it’s being morphed into the Safe Food Alliance) because of the growth and the fact that it is offering so many more services to our members. We recognize that for us to move forward as an industry, we have to be better than anyone else and especially foreign competition,” he said. “And you do that because you can create trust, and I think there’s a solid brand with SFA ,if you’ve been approved and a member … that you are operating within the SFA conditions.”

As the former chairman of SFA, Mariani enjoyed working with passionate people.

“The individuals in the DFA and SFA are passionate people that want to do and exceed the expectations or their members. And most importantly, you want to provide safe food for consumers,” Mariani said.

The new Chair of Safe Food Alliance is Dane Lance, President and CEO of Sunsweet Growers, the world’s largest and most famous brand of dried tree fruits including prunes, apricots, and mangos.

SCOTUS Raisin Reserve Decision

Grower Reflects on SCOTUS Raisin Reserve Decision

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) recently decided that California raisins held in reserve during heavy crop years belong to the government (under the Fresno-based Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC), a federal marketing order), and the government should pay growers for these raisins. Directly overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the RAC, created in 1949, is led by 47 growers and a public member.

Monte Schutz, a Fresno County raisin grower, as well as chairman of the executive committee of the RAC, said the recent decision by SCOTUS doesn’t make any sense. “The biggest problem I had with the decision is when Justice Roberts stated very clearly that the government took ownership of the raisins, and that was just not true—growers maintained ownership throughout,” Schutz noted. “And the committee, which is made up of growers and handlers, had complete control over when they sold the raisins and for how much. So I think they were mistaken that the government took control; while the government oversees our federal marketing order, we as a committee had control.”

Explaining how he thinks the Supreme Court got it wrong, Schutz said, “Personally I think it may have been the USDA lawyers who just didn’t explain it. The system is a little complicated, and I wasn’t in the courtroom, but I’m afraid they did not explain it properly. How they could conclude the government owned the raisins–is just completely wrong.”

“For the last five years, we haven’t used the reserve program at all because we are in a better balance right now than we were 13 years ago. At that time, the reserve was a tool to take care of the excess supply. We haven’t had to use it for the last five years, and we don’t intend on using it any time in the future. Although I would still like to keep that tool available, unfortunately, the Supreme Court has taken it away from us,” Schutz said.

“Now when we need to put the raisins in reserve, we have to consider, I assume, that the grower has to be compensated for them. But I do not know how the government can tell you at what price; the market dictates the price. That was the problem back then; the market was in a tough situation due to the oversupply, so we had to take less for those reserve raisins,” Schutz said. “Those raisin growers were paid less, but raisin prices did not spiral downward and the industry was kept in balance.”

“Without the reserve program, the raisin price would have crashed, ending in a bigger disaster than what occurred.”

The Supreme Court reached its decision at the end of a long fight by raisin grower Marvin Horne, who held that he did not have to give his raisins to the reserve without fair compensation.