Though I’m not too much of a betting man, I’d be willing to bet that you don’t like paying taxes. And I bet I know why. It’s not so much you don’t want to part with the money — though that’s certainly a factor, all right — it’s that you don’t have much control over how your tax dollars are spent.
It might not be so bad if you generally agreed with how your tax dollars are spent. But if you’re anything like me, you not only often disagree with how bureaucrats spend that money, you think — no, you know — that a lot of those dollars are flat wasted.
But what if you paid a tax that directly benefited your industry? That wouldn’t be so bad, huh? That’s just what the majority of the tree fruit growers up in Washington think — at least a majority of those who voted — and because of that I think the future of their industry looks a whole lot brighter.
Recently, Washington cherry and stone fruit growers joined their counterparts growing apples and pears in paying for research and Extension activities in an unprecedented public/private partnership with Washington State University (WSU). The total price tag is an impressive $32 million, which will be raised through assessments on the amount of fruit they grow. You can read more about it on page 12.
One of the organizers, Jim McFerson, who heads up the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, says it’s by far the largest gift WSU has received from anyone for anything. Incidentally, that includes anything from a gentleman by the name of Bill Gates and his pals at Microsoft, who also call Washington home.
McFerson believes that the effort is a harbinger of the future, and I couldn’t agree more. Regular readers may recall the cover story and extensive GrowingProduce.com coverage we had on the state of university Extension programs across the country a couple years ago. Virtually everyone contacted for that report bemoaned the funding cuts which were limiting their day-to-day activities and putting a serious dent in their research.
You’re Not Alone
Let’s face it, huge investments of taxpayer money into Extension research are a thing of the past. “This is a public/private partnership; this is the future,” said McFerson, who said he’s already been contacted by counterparts in other states. “It’s our producers saying we’ve got a future, but we’ve got to make a commitment to research.”
The future of your industry looks pretty dim without an investment in research. Maybe you won’t feel the effects right away, but I’d be willing to bet that succeeding generations will. It’s time to put up or shut up.
But it’s not like you’re completely on your own. An additional part of the Washington capital campaign involves enlisting industries allied with the tree fruit industry, such as packaging, crop protection, finance, transportation, etc. as partners in investing in the industry. The theory being they should contribute just like the producers, which seems only fair.
Those of you considering such an effort should know that many of these allied industries will jump on board. I am writing this while attending the World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA, and one of the exhibitors said today of fruit growers’ success, “Without it, all this,” he said, sweeping his hand above the millions of square feet, “goes away.” Amen, and contact your Extension agent and find out what you can do.