The National Agricultural Statistics Service is surveying more than 4,000 tree fruit and grape growers in Washington State to compile a new inventory of acreage by variety.
The state’s last tree fruit survey, done in 2000, showed that Washington had 256,000 acres of tree fruits, of which 192,000 were apples and 82,000 acres were Red Delicious. There were 29,000 acres of cherries, of which 18,800 were Bing. It’s likely that significant changes have taken place since then in terms of acreage and varieties.
In the new survey, which the National Agricultural Statistics Service began to send out in April, growers will be asked not only about their existing acreage of tree fruits and grapes, but about any intentions they might have to top-work, remove, or plant acreage this year, so the information is as current as possible when it’s released in December.
Dan Kelly, manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association, said the information is important in marketing and also to avoid overproducing certain varieties. “The industry needs to know where it’s at, as far as what trees are in the ground, and what varieties are in the ground.”
Data collection experts will use aerial photographs to make sure the grower names on the agency’s list cover all the acreage.
The survey has been simplified to make it easier for growers to fill out. It asks only for the names of varieties planted, and not about strains. Growers will be asked to categorize rootstocks as dwarf, semidwarf or standard.
Chris Messer, director of the National Agricultural Statistics Service field office for Washington State, estimates that the survey will take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more to complete, depending on the size of the orchard or vineyard operation. The information can be provided by phone, personal interview, electronically, or on the official questionnaire—whichever works best for the grower, she said. “It’s a busy time of year for them. We’ll work with them any way we can.”
Messer said it’s important that the response rate be high so that the agency can provide the best information possible for industry members to use in their decision making.
Individual responses are kept confidential, she said. Names and addresses of growers are used only to collect the information. Once the information goes into the statistics office, it is given a numeric identifier. Collected data are only published in a compiled form.
“We’re always aware that people need to have their information protected,” she said. “We’re not an enforcement agency. We don’t share that with anyone, and we don’t sell it.”
Messer said her department hopes to finish collecting the data in August. Results should be available at the Washington State Horticultural Association’s annual convention in December. A report of the results should be published by February 2007.