Before voting to continue CAC for the next five years, let the following sink in: the last time California avocado producers had a chance to express their approval or disapproval of CAC's performance was in February 2016. Since then, CAC has spent over $30,000,000 in CAC assessments, as well as, an equal amount of money funneled into CAC's coffers through HAB. The question for all California avocado producers should be asking themselves is whether CAC has increased the returns to California growers in the same amount over the past five years? The ongoing referendum is a chance to hold CAC accountable for the $60,000,000 they have spent, and to vote them out if you have not personally benefited from their programs, as I have concluded.
During the 2016 referendum, there were roughly 3450 assessment-paying avocado producers in California. It was reported that only 1076 voted in the referendum process, with 905 voting to continue paying for CAC. This means, that less than 28% of total California growers approved of CAC spending or their policies. Hardly, a mandate for continuing the organization or its programs.
If grower apathy was not bad enough in 2016, stakeholders who did vote weren't told or could not have known the following:
1) CAC was no longer a strong player representing California grower interests. Since at least 2012, CAC had become tangled up in a web of government bureaucracies, with players such as HAB, CDFA, and the USDA. The USDA clearly supports multinational agricultural policies, such as Perdue’s "Get Big or Get Out" policy which directly hurts small avocado growers providing locally-grown sustainable fruit in the United States. Moreover, the USDA and HAB also support increasing foreign avocado imports into the Unites States; a globalization policy that hurts California growers who must pay higher labor and water costs than their foreign counterparts. Sadly, CAC can no longer help us, since it has now become a minor player in this web, with CAC no longer in a strong position in an industry it once lead;
2) CAC directors would not pursue federal trade relief for California growers out of fear of foreign retaliation and decline in imports in 2020;
3) CAC directors would have no problem approving approximately $10,000,000 in salaries and benefits for less than a dozen employees from 2016-2021, as well as, approval of over $2,000,000 in salary and benefits to CAC's president without demanding a proof of CAC's programs benefits;
4) CAC directors in 2020, would refuse to publicly disclose the salary and benefits paid to Tom Bellamore, even though almost all other commodity boards, including HAB disclose the salary of their CEOs year in Agri-Pulse report each year; and finally
5) CAC directors would consistently approve a budget from 2016-2010; allocating over 40% of the California assessments dollars to administrative and overhead costs, rather than on marketing and research as claimed by supporters of CAC.
As noted above, California stakeholders were not told or could not have known a lot of things in 2016. But we now have a second chance in 2021. We now know how CAC will operate. We have a second chance to send a strong message to CAC that growers will no longer support CAC without full board transparency and a clear economic benefit to growers themselves.
In my opinion, let's vote CAC out, as the onion producers recently did in South Texas. If successful, the average California grower can be guaranteed one thing: at least an extra $10,000-$15,000 in their pocket over the next five years...an amount any struggling grower would gladly accept.
Update: I have been advised that current rising avocado prices in 2021 are due to a freeze in Mexico and not CAC’s marketing efforts.