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Michigan fruit growers voted to approve creation of a Michigan Tree Fruit Research and Development Program, which will be set up immediately (effective April 1) and will collect assessments on the 2014 crop.

Its purpose is to generate funds, estimated at about $675,000 a year, to support infrastructure at the four fruit experiment stations that are part of Michigan State University; support research projects; and, if needed, support extension positions that the growers want but the university can not fund.

The mail balloting took place the last two weeks in February and was conducted by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Results were reported March 12.

While the program was approved, it was not by an outpouring of support. Ballots were mailed to 1,335 producers, and only 266 voted—a 20 percent turnout.

Of the 253 valid ballots (13 were spoiled), 181 producers voted yes (72 percent) representing 544 million pounds of fruit (81 percent). Seventy-two producers voted no (38 percent) representing 130 million pounds (19%).

For the program to be adopted, under the Michigan law controlling formation of such groups, more than half of the ballots representing more than half of the volume must approve the proposal—but only among those voting.

The Michigan Tree Fruit Research and Development Program will be administered by a committee of ten members appointed by the governor and funded by assessments on apples, cherries, peaches, and plums. The program calls for a maximum assessment of $2.50 per ton for cherries sold, 4 cents per hundredweight for apples, $2 a ton for peaches, and $4.50 a ton for plums.