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Northwest pear industry officials overseeing research have asked for an increase in assessments but promise to justify the extra costs with a detailed strategic plan.

To keep up with the rising cost of scientific projects, the research officials have asked for a boost in pear sales assessments of 1.4 cents per packed box — a 3 percent jump — and have warned that requests for even more increases may follow in the coming years.

The Fresh Pear Committee, which steers marketing, research and administration for Oregon and Washington pear growers under a federal marketing order, is scheduled to vote on the increase at its annual meeting in May in Portland, Oregon.

“We see this increase as necessary to continue to support research at a similar level as we have done in the past,” said Bob Gix of Blue Star Growers and acting chair of the Fresh Pear Committee’s research subcommittee, the group that has asked for the increases. “In addition, we anticipate asking for an additional increase in the coming years to allow us to increase research support in focused areas.”

If passed, the 2018 increase would be the first since 2012 and only the second in 20 years.

Also at the annual meeting, the subcommittee members plan to present a detailed strategic plan to justify their requests for extra money. As a template, they plan to follow a 2015 strategic plan drafted by Northwest entomologists searching for methods to control pear psylla.

“As a pear grower it is important to me that if the research subcommittee feels it needs more money for research, that this need is documented,” said Ray Schmitten, a member of the subcommittee.

The increases would affect only research dollars.

Under the federal marketing order, which growers agreed in a 2017 vote to continue, shippers currently pay annual assessments of 44.9 cents per box. Of that, 38.5 cents goes to marketing efforts, 3.3 cents to administrative fees and 3.1 cents to research. If passed, the proposed increase would bring the research assessment to 4.5 cents per box and the total assessment to 46.3 cents per box.

Part of the mandate of the Fresh Pear Committee, managed by the Pear Bureau Northwest in Portland, Oregon, is to fund research based on recommendations by the science subcommittee, which screens proposals at its annual research review.

Past projects the group has funded involve thermo fogging, decay management, crop load management and integrated pest management, Gix said.

Those proposed projects grow more expensive every year. For example, a $63,000 aphid project in 1994 by Betsy Beers, a Washington State University entomologist, would likely cost $132,000 in 2020, Beers said in a letter to the committee.

However, the subcommittee wants to do more than just keep up with inflation. The members also expect some high-impact, expensive proposals from established researchers sometime in the next five years, they said.

“If we come back within a couple of years and ask for a bit more, don’t be too shocked,” said Steve Hunt, a Hood River, Oregon, grower and member of the research subcommittee. “We think this is very justifiable at this time but we do have bigger needs.”

The current research assessment of 3.1 cents per box typically generates between $600,000 and $700,000 per year. •

—by Ross Courtney

 

Pear meetings

The Fresh Pear Committee and other pear groups managed by Pear Bureau Northwest will hold annual meetings May 30-31, 2018, at the Embassy Suites in downtown Portland, Oregon. For more information, visit usapears.com/growers-connect