UPDATED: PMA, United Fresh resist urge to merge

07/16/2012 01:11:00 PM
Tom Karst

The merger talks have been ongoing since February 2011, led by O’Brien and Steffanie Smith, immediate past chairwoman of Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh and former chief executive officer of River Point Farms LLC, Hermiston, Ore.

The failed talks proceeded further than any previous efforts to combine the groups, which was also attempted in the early 1990s and the early 2000s. The group agreed on many aspects of a merger but could not get past the leadership question.

Produce marketing companies had hoped that combining the two groups would result in economies and efficiencies. Duplication of efforts in government relations, food safety expertise and trade show conventions frustrated some in the industry.

In May, sources said that some large produce marketers have reportedly told United Fresh and PMA to find a way to get the deal done or they will pull their support from both groups, and industry sources said that threat was a primary impetus for the merger discussions.

Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission and chairwoman elect of the PMA, said the merger talks have been conducted with diligence by both boards.

“As a marketer in my own company, we have looked at the programs and organizations that bring value to our membership and for the people we are reporting to and we make the decision on our participation and our support based on that,” she said. “We are active members in both organizations.”

Staff writer Coral Beach contributed to this article.

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USA  |  July, 17, 2012 at 10:10 AM

It seems irresponsible to the industry that they would get hung up on leadership. Imagine how strong and effective one large group would be for the industry. Feels like we are in Congress, can't cross the isle for the good of the whole.

Merge agree    
U.S.  |  July, 17, 2012 at 02:14 PM

agree completely. We are one industry, it's too bad not all see it that way. We should be focused on long term success of the industry not individual jobs or current appointed positions.

Avi Crane    
California  |  July, 17, 2012 at 10:27 AM

The Produce Industry is blessed with two long standing trade associations that continue to lead our industry forward. At the head of these organizations are two exceptional leaders who have much to offer our industry in the coming years. The rationle for the merger of our two organizations has been well articulated and Steffanie and Mike are extremley able professionals with a common goal. Let us all urge these negotiations to continue and succeed.

Tim Vaux    
Fresno, CA  |  July, 17, 2012 at 11:03 AM

The combined leadership of both organizations should be enlightened enough not to let this be a stumbling block. Open the CEO position for the combined organization to a national search and let the chips fall where they may.

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