Sep 25, 2012
Washington stone fruit growers will vote a second time

If everything goes according to plan, Washington state’s cherry and other stone fruit growers will find ballots in their mailboxes in December, said Jim McFerson, manager of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission.

The growers will be asked to vote yes or no on a proposed assessment. Sweet and tart cherry growers will be asked to pay an extra $4 per ton. Those who grow stone fruit other than cherries will be asked to pay an extra $1 per ton. The money will go toward a Washington State University (WSU) endowment, McFerson said.

The proposed assessment will add to the assessment the growers are already paying for research, but the new assessment will be temporary: Set to run for eight years, or until it collects about $5 million, McFerson said.

“This is a time- and amount-limited special assessment,” he said. “It effectively doubles the amount individuals pay but for a limited period of time to meet specific goals.”

The permanent assessment growers currently pay is for research and Extension activities in general. University projects outside the state get some funding, but the bulk of the dollars go toward WSU projects, McFerson said.

The proposed assessment would go to WSU specifically, and would expand the university’s capacity to do research and Extension activities. The endowment it would fund has three targets: Research, technology transfer and maintenance of research orchards, he said.

The research commission held a similar referendum last year, asking apple, pear, cherry and stone fruit growers to vote on a new assessment. Apple and pear growers approved, but cherry and stone fruit growers voted it down, McFerson said.

The new assessment proposal is the same as last year’s, but the informational campaign is more focused on cherry and stone fruit growers and the commission is working with an updated grower list. Last year’s list had some flaws, he said.

The industry is already seeing the benefits of last year’s pear and apple assessment. WSU is using that money to recruit candidates for two new positions, a tree fruit Extension leader (who will coordinate Extension activities in the state) and an endowed chair in pomology, McFerson said.

Matt Milkovich





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