The Washington State Tree Fruit Association is identifying candidates to run for board positions in an election that will be held in December. Ballots will be distributed to members on December 5.
The new association will be complete when it absorbs the Washington State Horticultural Association after the annual hort meeting in early December. The other three industry organizations—Washington Growers Clearing House, Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, and Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association—merged in August.
Jon DeVaney, president of the new association, said it has three main functions: To represent the industry in state government affairs; to collect and disseminate data; and to provide education and training.
Its annual budget will be $1.5 million, which is about $250,000 less than the combined budgets of the four organizations it is replacing. It will be funded by dues of ¾ cent per 40-pound equivalent box of apples, pears, cherries, and soft fruit. Packers will remit the dues directly to the association.
DeVaney said growers can decline membership by asking to be removed from the mailing list, though the packer will still pay dues on all the fruit they pack.
“To have growers automatically members, unless they choose not to be affiliated by saying ‘Take me off your list,’ means we maximize the political influence by saying we represent all the growers of the industry, and all the packers, and all the marketers,” DeVaney said.
Previously individual growers who chose to be members of the Hort Association paid their annual dues of $95 per year directly to the association. Clearing House members had their dues of ¾ cent per box collected by their packers.
Frank Lyall, who served as a board member of the Clearing House and was a member of the consolidation task force, said since the fees paid by packers will likely be charged to the growers, it would be misleading to call the new association voluntary.
“There’s no pathway for the independent grower to opt out of financing the new organization, because the packing house will collect that fee, and that always comes out of the grower’s money,” he said. “They’re going to be financing the new Tree Fruit Association whether they like it or not.”
DeVaney said the dues are similar to the amount packers previously paid the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association or Yakima Valley Grower-Shippers Association, which growers paid indirectly. Growers who were members of the Clearing House will not pay an additional ¾ cent per box membership fee, so they will pay less than they did before the merger.
A nominating committee chaired by Jeff Cleveringa has approved the nomination of the following individuals:
Jeff Pheasant, north independent grower, for a term ending December 2015
Mark Stennes, north independent grower, for a term ending December 2017
Morgan Rowe, south independent grower, for a term ending December 2015
Kevin Knight, south independent grower, for a term ending December 2016
Jose Ramirez, south independent grower, for a term ending December 2017
Gary Snyder, at-large grower, for a term ending December 2015
Sam Godwin, at-large grower, for a term ending December 2017
West Mathison, north packer, for a term ending December 2016
Jim Colbert, north packer, for a term ending December 2017
Jordan Matson, south packer, for a term ending December 2015
Dan Plath, south packer, for a term ending December 2016
Sean Gilbert, south packer, for a term ending December 2017
Robert Kershaw, marketer, for a term ending December 2016
Anyone who would like to be on the ballot or nominate someone else for the ballot should submit the name of the candidate, the company they represent, and the board position sought, along with the signatures of 25 association members supporting the nomination. Nominations are due at the Washington Tree Fruit Association office at 105 South 18th Street, Yakima, by November 20.
All growers, whether independent or not, will be able to vote for the grower position candidates for their districts. Lyall said he thinks only independent growers should be able to vote for the independent grower positions to avoid packers influencing the outcome, but DeVaney said it would be too difficult to verify the status of everyone voting.
Only packers will be able to vote for the packer positions and marketers will vote for the marketer position.
DeVaney plans to send out a survey before the end of the year to find out specifically what growers and packers would like the association to do. This will help board members when they meet for a strategic planning session in the new year.
The new association will not just maintain services that the four organizations provided but improve on them by providing more data and expanding its educational role, he said.
“We don‘t need to wait until once a year to provide that education to the industry,” DeVaney said. “We can do more over the course of the year. We want to maintain and expand the kind of training we’ve been providing through the Hort Association and the Clearing House.”
DeVaney also expects the association will play a more proactive role in state legislative and regulatory affairs so that it’s not just pushing back on issues that could have a negative impact, but also asking for improvements to rules and regulations.
“We need to focus on state regulations—not just what the legislature passes, but how agencies are implementing it,” DeVaney said.
Ranie Haas will join the association on October 20 in the new position of director of regulatory and industry affairs. Haas grew up on an orchard in Wapato, Washington. After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from Central Washington University in 1997, she worked at Congressman Doc Hasting’s office in Yakima for six years. She then worked in hop purchasing for Anheuser-Busch and most recently was a sales assistant for Washington Fruit and Produce Company.