"To Be or Not To Be.." That is the Question

June 11, 2021

“To be, or not to be…is one of the most well-know and quoted phrases in history.  The opening lines of Prince Hamlet’s soliloquy from Scene 1, Act 3 (the ‘nunnery scene’), where Hamlet contemplates death and suicide, could be used as a warning to the US Pecan Growers who, for the next few weeks, will decide whether the industry’s Federal Marketing Order, and with it the American Pecan Council (APC), will ‘die’ or continue to serve an industry that desperately needs what it can provide.  If the growers choose the former, thereby allowing the organization to die, they will in effect be committing suicide.  Let me explain.

So why might the growers not reauthorize the marketing order?  Because many uniformed growers want to blame the current market malaise on the APC.  They want to believe that the APC should be doing more to ‘fix’ prices so that they are guaranteed a profit.  They don’t want to understand the market and how it works, or what restrictions are placed on the APC by the USDA.  They don’t want to understand the fact that markets are bigger than any one person, company or organization. BY LAW, the APC is not allowed to interfere in any way with pricing.  They also fail to understand that the APC had nothing to do with the US/China trade war, the increases in Mexican production, the impact that the poor quality pecans from Mexico have had on prices or the fact that the world is suffering from the impact of COVID, a pandemic that has nearly wiped out the entire food service segment of our industry.  Never mind the fact that since the APC’s inception, consumption has increased from 487 to 590 million pounds: the highest consumption in the history of the industry.  Never mind the fact that consumer awareness has been dramatically increased, new markets have been opened, and for the first time in the history of the industry, we have usable data, the most important of which is the number of committed pounds in the industry’s inventory.  Never mind the fact that the APC has worked tirelessly to get revised inshell and kernel standards published, the first such revision in over 50 years!  What about the APC’s proposed quality program?  Does that not mean anything?  These are the same growers who complain about the quality and volume of pecans coming into the country or the quality of the product found on numerous store shelves.  I guess that they would rather complain than do something about it.  Remember, ONLY THE APC CAN SET STANDARDS FOR THE INDUSTRY AND ENFORCE THEM! ONLY THE APC CAN COLLECT DATA.  And what about the recent government purchases of pecans, the insurance payments for weather ravaged orchards, etc.  While not legally able to lobby for such programs, the APC did a great job of working with the industry to get those programs adopted.  No, I guess that those growers would rather go back to the days when everyone had to pay for their own marketing efforts, when State organizations fought each other for Federal marketing dollars and tried to convince the consumer that the pecans grown in their states were somehow better than the ones grown a few miles away in another.  I just returned from a trip to Mexico where I visited four different shelling plants.  Three of the four plants only size their pecans to get Extra Large, Jumbo, Jr Mammoth or Mammoth Halves. Anything smaller is mixed with the any pieces smaller than medium, and that is how it comes across the border. Considering the current glut of pieces, is that a practice that the industry needs to have continue?  With one vote, the APC could stop that practice in its tracks, and as mentioned above, ONLY THE APC CAN DO THAT, but I guess those growers would rather complain about what’s coming across the border than to do something about it. If there are issues with the APC, then let’s fix them but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Yes,  “To be, or not to be,” that is the question.  What will it be?”