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.