Nearly 79% of the vegetable growers voting in the review referendum on the Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program voted “Yes” to continue the Program for another five-year period. A total of 309 eligible ballots were received with 243 voting “Yes” to continue the Program and 66 voting “No”. Eight ballots were ruled to be ineligible or spoiled. Over 2,000 ballots were mailed to growers. The official results will be announced in a letter to growers from Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding. The Vegetable Marketing and Research Program Board greatly appreciates this vote of confidence in the work of the Program. PVGA also strongly supported the continuance of the Vegetable Marketing and Research Program and is encouraged by the continued grower support.
A state marketing order for Pennsylvania vegetable growers established under the Pennsylvania Agricultural Commodities Marketing Act, the Vegetable Marketing and Research Program has been consistently supported by growers in previous review referendums. In 2018, 80% of the growers voted in favor of continuing the Program compared to 85% in 2013, 84% in 2008, 78% in 2003, 66% in 1998 and 60% in 1993.
Growers are required to pay an annual assessment to the Program of $25 for the first five units of production plus $1.50 for each additional unit of production. Units of production are acres for field production and 1,000 sq. ft of greenhouse or high tunnel production area. Growers can elect to pay an assessment of 1.25% of their gross sales, but in most all cases the production area method will result in a lower assessment payment.
PVGA petitioned the Department of Agriculture to conduct the initial grower referendum that established the Program in 1988 with the goal of involving all Pennsylvania vegetable growers in the work of promoting Pennsylvania-grown vegetables and funding practical vegetable production research. Since its establishment, the Program has funded over $755,000 worth of vegetable research by Penn State and other universities and research entities. The Program funded research that helped establish systems to monitor tomato diseases and sweet corn insect pests so growers can time their fungicide and insecticide applications to be more effective. Various weed and root rot control methods for snap beans and other crops have been evaluated by the Program’s research efforts. A long-term tomato breeding project plus variety trials for several different crops have been supported as well as herbicide, plasticulture and high tunnel studies. Throughout the history of the Program, PVGA has worked with the Program to fund these vegetable research projects, with PVGA adding another $1 million to the effort, largely from the Association’s profits from its Farm Show food booth.
In addition, over $600,000 grower assessment dollars have been supplemented by over $600,000 in state and federal grants to promote Pennsylvania-grown vegetables. The Program has distributed thousands and thousands of price cards, price paddles, stickers, recipe cards, brochures, banners, posters, and signs to growers and markets across the state, enabling them to promote Pennsylvania vegetables with professional looking point-of-purchase materials. In addition, the Program has touted Pennsylvania vegetables to millions of consumers on the radio airwaves, on billboards and in newspapers across the state. The Program has worked with different logos and themes over the years before developing its own PA Produce logo. The annual “August is Pennsylvania Produce Month” promotion supported by the Program’s consumer website at www.PAVeggies.org and a robust social media campaign have been the focus of the Program’s promotion efforts in recent years. Currently the Program is moving away from the “August is PA Produce Month” to a “Summer Means Local and Local Means Delicious” campaign running from July through September.
The Program is controlled by a Board consisting of the Secretary of Agriculture (or his designee), 12 growers appointed by the Secretary with four growers being appointed from each of the western, central and eastern regions of the Commonwealth, and a representative sales agents. Board members serve without compensation other than travel expenses to attend meetings. PVGA looks forward to continuing to work with the Program’s Board to promote PA Veggies and to funding additional research.