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A large-scale survey of the Pacific Northwest pear industry began in January to gather information on what the industry might look like in the next 25 years.

The pear industry’s research subcommittee is polling pear growers, packers, marketers, and researchers in order to compile a vision of the pear industry in the year 2030.

Pear grower Ray Schmitten, chair of the Northwest Fresh and Processed Pear Research Subcommittee, said responses to the survey will help guide research priorities and political strategies in the future. Between $650,000 and $750,000 is collected annually for research from growers in Washington and Oregon, and Schmitten said the committee wants to make sure that the research it funds is in the best interests of the whole industry. "We want to unify the industry," he said.

The industry comprises about 1,400 growers located between the Canadian and California borders. The region has four main pear-growing districts: Wenatchee, Yakima, Mid-Columbia, and Medford.

Schmitten said the pear industry faces a unique challenge in that it is facing greater loss of land to urban development than other tree fruit industries, such as apples or cherries.

Questions

Among the questions the survey will help answer are:

  • Where will the production base be 20 years from now?
  • Are growers replanting or relocating?
  • Are small growers selling out to housing or larger operations?
  • Will labor issues force growers to adopt different tree structure?
  • If a dwarfing pear rootstock were available, to what extent would orchards be replanted with pedestrian systems by 2030?
  • Does the industry need a new pear variety?
    Jim Koempel of Cashmere, Washington, who is the pear industry representative on the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, said the research subcommittee is looking for a long-range vision of the industry. "You’ve got to have more than a five-year vision, in my opinion."

    The Pear Bureau Northwest is sending out the survey on behalf of the research subcommittee and will gather responses on-line and by mail. Kevin Moffitt, president of the Pear Bureau, said the survey was scheduled to go out in early January, and he hoped that some preliminary results could be reported during the North Central Washington Pear Day on January 23, but the survey will be ongoing so that as much input can be obtained as possible. He said it is the largest-scale pear industry survey in recent –history.

    "We just want to get a feel for what people are thinking out there and what they believe will change in the next 20 years," he said.