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Washington State University is beginning the hiring process for two new endowed position supported by the special assessment that apple and pear growers will begin paying this year through the ­Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission.

One position is an applied physiologist position, which will likely be based at WSU’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, and the other is a tree fruit extension team leader.

Last year, Washington apple and pear growers voted in favor of a special research assessment of $1 a ton in order to raise $27 million over the next eight years or so to enhance WSU’s research and extension efforts in tree fruits. The assessment will begin to be collected as the 2012 crops are sold. The endowment funds will provide a total of $1.5 ­million in operating money for each of six research positions, which the university will maintain in perpetuity. The university will pay salaries and benefits.

Some of the assessment funds will also be used to support five new endowed extension positions to enhance information and technology transfer. The WSU Tree Fruit Endowment Advisory Committee has identified the position of tree fruit extension leader as the top priority. This person would coordinate the transfer of information and technology statewide. The university will probably provide half the funding for this position and the industry will contribute matching dollars, said Dr. Jim McFerson, Research Commission manager.

The aim is to have the new people in place before the end of 2012, said Jake Gutzwiler, who is chair of the Endowment Advisory Committee. It’s not been decided where the new extension team leader will be based, but none of the endowed positions will be located at WSU’s main Pullman campus. They will be at the research and extension centers in either Prosser or Wenatchee, so they are close to the industry.

Butler said there’s an urgent need for a new physiologist with the recent retirement of Drs. Don Elfving and Larry Schrader, who were based in Wenatchee.