Research assessment goes to the vote
Kirk Mayer, manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association, testified in favor of the special assessment.
Ballots were mailed out August 10 to all commercial tree fruit growers in Washington State asking them to vote on a special assessment to support tree fruit research at Washington State University.
The special assessment for WSU’s Tree Fruit Campaign would be the same amount as the research assessment they already pay to the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission. That’s $1 a ton for apples, pears, and stone fruits, and $4 a ton for cherries. The assessment would be in effect for eight years or until $32 million has been raised, whichever comes first, said Ben McLuen, assistant director of development at WSU.
$12 million of the funds would be used to create six endowed chairs—scientists focusing specifically in the areas of tree fruit physiology, pomology, soil health and productivity, crop protection, engineering and automation, and molecular biology.
Another $12 million would provide base funding for five new positions in outreach and technology transfer to promote communication between researchers and producers.
The remaining $8 million would provide stable funding to operate the research orchards of WSU’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee and of the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser.
In addition, WSU is hoping to raise $10 million from allied industry partners for orchard infrastructure and equipment, fruit handling and storage equipment, and an endowment fund providing student fellowships and internships.
The Tree Fruit Campaign is part of a $1 billion university-wide fundraising effort.
Kirk Mayer, manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association, who was one of the few to comment during public hearings in Yakima and Wenatchee in late July, said his board had voted strongly in favor of the special assessment.
“This proposal will ensure that Washington State has a coordinated approach to maximizing Washington tree fruit growers’ access to world class researchers and state-of-the-art research and technologies,” he said.
This would be coupled with an aggressive outreach program to help growers meet consumer expectations, compete in the world marketplace, and address ever-changing regulatory requirements, he added.
A group of four tree fruit growers mailed out a flyer directly to all the state’s growers expressing support for the assessment.
Ballots are due back by August 31. Each grower receives one vote and a simple majority is required for the measure to pass. There are no acreage requirements. Growers will vote separately on apples, cherries, pears, and soft fruit. If the measure passes, it will go into effect with the 2012 crop year.
For more information, check the Campaign for Tree Fruit Website.