Washington State cherry and soft fruit growers will likely receive ballots in December so they may vote a second time on a special assessment to fund research at Washington State University.
In the fall of 2011, Washington tree fruit growers were asked to support an additional assessment, equivalent to what they now pay. Apple and pear growers said yes and began to pay $1 a ton this year. But only 44 percent of cherry growers said yes to their $4 a ton assessment, and it failed to pass.
The Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission’s board voted unanimously in April to try again, and now the process has been set in motion. The Research Commission, which would collect the assessments, made its decision based on a recommendation from the Washington State Fruit Commission.
Fruit Commission board members attributed the lack of cherry grower support to an incomplete mailing list and a lack of information about why the funds were necessary. It asked that an educational campaign be conducted to explain to growers how the funds would be used.
Jake Gutzwiler, quality control supervisor at Stemilt and chair of the tree fruit campaign committee, said the cherry industry is being asked to raise $5 million over about eight years. That would fill out the original $32 million funding package.
The plan is to endow six research chairs at Washington State University with $12 million, six new extension positions with $12 million, and create an $8 million endowment for research orchard operations.