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A proposal to merge four Washington tree fruit organizations will be presented to growers during the Washington State Horticultural Association’s annual meeting in Wenatchee on December 3.

West Mathison, who first raised the idea exactly two years ago as Hort Association president, will outline the consolidation plan, which has been drawn up by an industry task force with help from consultant Colin Rorrie from Dallas, Texas.

The four organizations are: the Hort Association, the Yakima Valley Growers- Shippers Association, the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, and the Washington Growers Clearing House Association.

Mathison, who is president of Stemilt Growers, Inc., Wenatchee, said the task force is encouraging written feedback on the plan during a comment period that will end January 10. The goal is to have the new, combined organization up and running by September 1, though Mathison said the final plan and timeline could be influenced by comments that growers submit. “It’s a fluid process,” he said.

The objectives are to give the industry a single voice in the political arena and to create a single source of fruit pricing and movement data. Currently, the organizations have overlapping functions.

There would be a clear delineation within the new organization of responsibilities relating to regulatory affairs, data collection and reporting, and education and member services.

Mathison said the task force tried to address concerns about whether growers would continue to receive all the movement and pricing data they currently receive and whether small, independent growers would be well represented on the board of trustees. The reporting of data might even improve with the consolidated approach, he said, and the structure will allow plenty of opportunities for growers to participate. However, the plan defines a grower simply as someone owning or representing an entity that is involved in the commercial production of tree fruits.

After the comment period, the task force will consider the comments and update the plan, which will need to be approved next spring by all four boards. A transition board will then begin a search for a chief executive officer for the new organization with a target start date of July 1, according to the preliminary plan.