On May 16, 2013, an historic event occurred for pecans. Up until that date, no group had been assembled that represented all segments of the U. S. pecan industry. On that date, the newly formed U. S. Pecan Council seated its first board of directors. This article is an account of its beginnings and future vision.
In the summer of 2011, an ad hoc group of growers was called together by then National Pecan Growers Council president, Phillip Arnold, for the specific purpose of discussing the feasibility of an umbrella group to represent the entire U. S. pecan industry. Gathering at a DFW airport conference room were pecan folks from Georgia, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. The consensus of the group reinforced the need for such an entity, but it was agreed that growers and shellers had to be united in support of the effort. Therefore, the next step was to present the idea to the National Pecan Shellers Association conference in September 2011 in Asheville, NC. At that meeting, the shellers responded favorably to the concept, and the idea began to gain traction.
In early 2012, an Organizational Committee was formed to share the idea across the pecan belt, to begin to shape the formation of a council, and to adopt a set of By-Laws to present to the various pecan constituent groups for endorsement. The committee was comprised of three growers (Randy Hudson, Mike Adams, and Phillip Arnold) and three shellers (Marty Harrell, Larry Willson, and Bruce Caris.) Over the course of 2012, the By-Laws were presented for endorsement and comment to SEPGA, WPGA, TPGA, NMPGA, GPGA, and NPSA. Members of the committee made additional presentations to other state pecan organizations.
The idea continued to be favorably received, and in December 2012, the Organizational Committee made the decision to incorporate the U. S. Pecan Council as an exempt (non-profit) Delaware corporation.
The By-Laws called for the pecan producing states to be divided into three regions, the East region, the Central region, and the West region. There were to be three board members from each region; a grower, a sheller, and a grower/sheller. In addition, two At-Large board seats from outside the pecan industry were to round out an eleven member board. Selections for the grower board seats were to come from SEPGA for the East region, TPGA and OPGA for the Central region, and WPGA for the West region. NPSA was to select the sheller members from each region. Thereafter, nominations for the grower/sheller board seats were to come from the same organizations and elected by the seated growers and shellers.
In early 2013, the various constituent groups enacted the above-described process. Thus, the final meeting of the Organizational Committee occurred on April 4, 2013 with those members deciding that their task was complete. A duly elected board of the U. S. Pecan Council could now be seated.
The initial board represented a broad spectrum of the pecan belt from east to west: the constituent organizations chose the following: East Region: Grower – Gary Underwood; Sheller – Terri Schuck; Central Region: Grower – Mike Adams; Sheller – Dan York; West Region: Grower – Louie Salopek; Sheller – Helen Watts. At their first board meeting in May, these directors elected the following grower/sheller members: East Region – Larry Willson; Central Region – Scott Landgraf; West Region – Bruce Caris.
The By-Laws are serving as a guide for the council. Items of note are the states that make up the regions – East region (North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama); Central region (Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas); West region (New Mexico, Arizona, and California). Seven standing committees are to be formed within the council: the Executive Committee, the Audit Committee, the Marketing and Trade Committee, the Food Safety Committee, the Constituent Liaison Committee, the Governmental Affairs Committee, and the Parliamentary Committee.
It should be noted that both the NPSA and the NPGC have endorsed USPC and recognized that it is not a replacement for any national, regional, or state industry group already in existence. The NPSA, NPGC, and all existing constituent associations will continue to function as presently.
The U. S. Pecan Council is a bold vision. Much work is ahead and yet to be done. However, its formers envisioned an advocate for the industry where all involved can meet at the same table addressing solutions to common issues. Among those issues is a comprehensive strategy (domestic and global) to market the entire crop, an emergency management plan to proactively address crisis situations, and a unified single voice in Washington and elsewhere. As the industry grows, with new challenges and successes, the USPC intends to lead in a role much needed by food commodities in a rapidly changing world.