As is the situation in any business, there is always ‘more to it than meets the eye,’ and this is most certainly the case in my position as leading the Washington Apple Commission ship. Strategizing, developing, executing, and evaluating promotional programs is just one responsibility, but there are many other ‘outside’ influences to our industry. Some in D.C. have proposed cutting MAP (Market Access Program funds = 72% of our budget) or eliminating it entirely, and in Olympia efforts to control state spending include a proposal to reduce all state employee salary cost by three percent. You just never can predict where time and effort must be spent to support the WAC Export Program—in the 28 international markets, in Washington, D.C., or in Olympia.
At the request of the governor, Senate Bill 5860 was introduced by State Senator Ed Murray of the 43rd District in Seattle, who is chair of the Ways and Means Committee. SB 5860 cuts state agencies’ salaries by three percent, but, unfortunately, doesn’t exempt the state’s agricultural commodity commissions which, although technically part of state government, are entirely funded by grower assessments. Certainly finding solutions to the current financial turmoil in Olympia must be supported by all citizens, and we all must play a part in this painful process as government provides fewer and fewer services into the future. On a personal level, I have no issue with looking at salaries as a tool to get our state’s economic house in order providing our funding was coming from the State of Washington, but that is where the rub is.
The Washington Apple Commission is 100 percent self-funded through grower assessments—growers pay our salaries and provide the financial resources to promote Washington apples in 28 countries with the assistance of 12 international representatives. WAC receives no funds from the State of Washington—ZERO. If we allow the State to ‘set precedence’ and influence/control our business by reducing salaries, what is next? We could lose staff to the private sector, be forced to reduce promotional support with larger crops upcoming, and allow an outside entity to tell us what is best for our industry.
It’s absolutely absurd that the WAC can be ‘lumped in’ with other state agencies that are funded through the general fund. We work diligently to be good stewards of grower funds, making financially sound decisions every day. It’s concerning when our business’s effectiveness will be influenced by cost savings measures that have no bearing on ‘cost savings’!