California Fresh Fruit Association, Barry Bedwell:

Positive outlook for table grapes

At the November 17 Grape, Nut & Tree Fruit Expo in Fresno, Barry Bedwell, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association, reported a positive outlook for table grapes this year. “Production continues to expand,” said Bedwell, “and consumer acceptance of table grapes continues to expand, particularly for exported California table grapes. That’s a real positive. We’re also seeing the development of newer varieties—more proprietary brands that are very consumer friendly.”

Bedwell said topping this year’s California Fresh Fruit Association annual Board of Directors Top 10 Issues survey are water concerns, followed by food safety and labor. “These are relatively consistent,” Bedwell said, “but we have seen some changes. Since last year, water, of course, has gone to the top of the list. Our members expressed concerns beyond the drought that encompass what future water system will allow proper conjunctive use of water—both surface water and groundwater.”

“We’ve also seen increased concern over food safety. And even though grapes are permanent crops with, I think, a low risk profile, we always have to be very concerned about food safety.

Then we have to look at the labor situation—not only the cost of labor—but also the availability. So, even though it has been stalled, the need for immigration reform is critically important. We will probably be in a defensive position in the next couple of years, compounded by increasing labor costs due to some well-intended, but I think misguided, efforts to increase wages around the state unnecessarily.”

In 2015, the California Fresh Fruit Association survey identified the following issues as top priorities:
  • Water Supply/Drought Related Issues (#3 in 2014)
  • Food Safety (#9 in 2014)
  • Immigration reform (#1 in 2014)
  • Health Care Mandates/Affordable Care Act (#4 in 2014)
  • Labor Laws and Regulations (#2 in 2014)
  • Labor Costs/Minimum Wage Increase Impacts (#5 in 2014)
  • Groundwater Management Requirements (N/L in 2014)
  • Water Quality Regulations (Nitrogen, Salts, etc.) (#7 in 2014)
  • Invasive Pest Issues (#6 in 2014)
  • Workers Compensation Issues (#8 in 2014)
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