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October 2019, Volume 25, Number 4

California Agriculture

Farm Bureau in 1969 commemorated its 50th anniversary by asking for predictions about the state's agriculture in 2019. The AFBF's Matt Triggs predicted that, "for a long time, human labor, even at much higher than existing wage rates, will be cheaper and more satisfactory than machine operation for a few agricultural operations."

Raisins. US raisin production is centered around Fresno. Cooperative Sun-Maid hired Harry Overly as CEO to boost the demand for raisins and the incomes of Sun-Maid raisin growers, who account for 40 percent of US raisin production.

Many growers belong to the Raisin Bargaining Association, which negotiates prices with raisin processors including Sun-Maid. Overly wanted to reduce grower raisin prices in order to fund ads that promoted raisins as a natural snack. When the RBA resisted, Overly pulled Sun-Maid out of the negotiations.

Growers assess themselves a small fee to promote raisins. The California Dancing Raisins in Fall 1986 became one of the most successful farm commodity ads, but the ads ended in 1994 after most raisin processors successfully voted to end funding for advertising. There were other disputes, including the Horne case that ended the practice of requiring raisin farmers to set aside some of their raisins in a reserve in order to boost prices. The US Supreme Court in 2015 agreed with Horne that the raisin reserve was an unlawful taking of private property.

The US share of global raisin production fell from 50 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2018, as US Thompson seedless grape acreage fell by half.