Jun 29, 2010
04:05 PMThe Wind Machine
Monday saw the death of United States Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, who, at age 92, died with the distinction of being the person who served the longest time as a member of Congress.
Senator Byrd was known as one dedicated to bringing federal dollars home. From his seat on the Appropriations Committee, he tenaciously made sure that West Virginia was dotted with federal buildings and paved with federal highway projects. To his mind, all the better if they bore his name; examples, among many, being the Robert C. Byrd Expressway and the Robert C. Byrd Federal Correctional Institution.
One would think that our Pacific Northwest tree fruit industry would have little interaction with Senator Byrd and one would generally be correct. However, there is one funding issue that may be eased by the senator’s departure. Over the past many years our pear industry has attempted to move to the Pacific Northwest some plant breeding resources now located at USDA’s Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia. This shifting of Agricultural Research Service assets made sense from the standpoints of good scientific research and the realities of current commercial pear production. It made less sense to Senator Byrd, who was in a position to oversee USDA’s budget and not kindly disposed to see federal resources stray once having been captured by West Virginia. So nothing happened.
The Appalachian Fruit Research Station deserves to remain an important horticultural research site for our country. However, thankfully, it will no longer be under Senator Byrd’s inflexible halo of protection against reasonable program change