Opinion: Washington Tree Fruit Industry Investing In Research

Desmond LayneIn 1969, the state legislature in Washington passed the Tree Fruit Research Act. The purpose of the act was to establish the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, “which shall promote and carry on research and administer specific industry service programs, including but not limited to sanitation programs, which will or may benefit the planting, production, harvesting, handling, processing, or shipment of tree fruit of this state, which shall collect assessments on tree fruit in this state, and which shall coordinate its research efforts with those of other state, federal, or private agencies doing similar research.”

For 45 years, Washington tree fruit growers have been collectively investing in research and Extension. In FY 2013, nearly $4 million in funding was devoted to addressing problems facing the tree fruit industry.

The major partner to the Washington tree fruit industry continues to be Washington State University (WSU). Throughout the years WSU has focused on research and Extension that addresses challenges facing the industry. This partnership reached an historical landmark in 2011 when the tree fruit industry and WSU jointly launched an effort to permanently expand research and Extension capacity at WSU.

As part of “The Campaign for Washington State University,” tree fruit growers in the state of Washington voted in 2011 and again in 2013 to pass two special project assessments that, over eight years, will generate a $32 million endowment. This is the largest gift in the history of the university. WSU President Elson Floyd said, “A gift of this magnitude is truly transformational. We sincerely thank the industry for making such a dramatic investment, and for finding a way to make it happen that fits the industry’s culture and values. In partnership, WSU and growers will work to ensure the industry continues to be a leader in the global market.”

Getting The Ball Rolling

The first special project assessment was passed by Washington apple and pear growers. The assessment rate is $1 per ton on both apples and pears. The assessment will extend over a time period not to exceed eight years, or when $27 million is raised, whichever comes first. Grower assessments began with the 2012 crop year. The second special project assessment was passed by Washington cherry and other stone fruit (apricot, nectarine, peach, plum) growers. The assessment rate is $4 per ton on sweet cherries and $1 per ton on other stone fruits. The assessment will last over a time period not to exceed eight years, or when $5 million is raised, whichever comes first. Grower assessments began with the 2013 crop year.

The $32 million industry investment in WSU will provide perpetual funding for three targeted areas. First is the establishment of endowed chairs. WSU will cover the salary and benefits for these faculty positions while the endowment will provide support for each targeted research program. I was the first chair hired as the Tree Fruit Extension Program Leader. The second hired was Dr. Stefano Musacchi, formerly of the University of Bologna, as the chair of Tree Fruit Physiology and Management.

Second, the endowment will be used to advance world-class information and technology transfer (ITT). ITT endowment funds will be leveraged with other sources such as state formula funds, national and state competitive grants, and industry grants and gifts, to establish new industry outreach positions that will complement the statewide and regional tree fruit Extension specialists already at WSU. Further, through close interaction with industry, the ITT effort will assist in determining what specific research to do and how to deliver the results in a form that the industry can use to make decisions and improve their operations.

Third, the endowment will be used to support research orchard operations, facilities, equipment, etc. This gift will help to provide stable funding to maintain the living laboratories where new knowledge and technology is developed through research at the WSU tree fruit research farms in Wenatchee and Prosser.

Support From Within

Another goal of the Campaign for Tree Fruit is to raise an additional $10 million through in-kind gifts and cash donations from allied industries and friends. In contrast to the $32 million noted above, this is not a grower assessment. Allied industries include orchard and packinghouse equipment manufacturers, agricultural chemical companies, irrigation equipment suppliers, packaging companies, nurseries, and financial institutions. The allied industries and friends campaign goal is targeted with $4.5 million toward developing research orchards, $2.5 million toward establishing improved fruit handling and storage facilities, and $3 million to support graduate research assistantships. To date, $1 million has been raised toward this goal.

A critical element to the sustaining power and long-term, mutual success of this landmark public-private partnership is regular and open communication and shared management. An industry advisory committee, called the Endowment Advisory Committee (EAC), comprising seven industry appointees, works closely with the Dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences to ensure the investment is maximized for the benefit of Washington tree fruit growers. Each endowment will be governed by a specific gift use agreement, which the EAC will develop jointly with WSU. In addition, the EAC will participate in annual program reviews and members will sit on selection committees recruiting new WSU hires.

National Implications

There is no doubt that Washington tree fruit and allied industries are investing in their future. As both the research and technology enterprise is expanded over the next eight years and through partnership with faculty already at WSU, regionally adapted discoveries and innovations will help keep Washington growers profitable and sustainable. With this news, you might be saying to yourself, “Hey, that’s great for Washington tree fruit growers, but how does that help me?” In simple terms, there is a multiplier effect. New scientific discoveries, resulting technologies, and applications to solve tree fruit industry problems will eventually transcend the geographic boundaries of the state of Washington — especially in the current information age that we live in with the Internet. Further, given the enhanced emphasis of specialty crops in the 2014 Farm Bill, new and expanded multistate, multidisciplinary research and Extension teams will be developed to address national industry-relevant problems. The bottom line is that with more brain power, more financial resources, enhanced facilities, and strengthened existing or new partnerships, the tree fruit industry nationally will be poised to make significant advances and enhance our global competitiveness.

Land grant universities across the U.S. continue to face fiscal challenges. Many, including WSU, have chosen to raise tuition fees and increase student enrollment. However, these funds are typically not linked to direct support for agricultural research and Extension. With diminished support at the national and especially the state level to support traditional agricultural research and Extension activities, many institutions are cutting back, merging, or eliminating programs and positions.
The model that has been developed between the Washington tree fruit industry and WSU is one that has helped to overcome public funding trends. However, it has required the industry to invest in its own future. A similar effort in Michigan, led by Phil Korson (executive director, Michigan Cherry Committee) and others is gaining traction. Perhaps it is time to begin a conversation with growers and allied industry in your region/state, along with university and government officials, to explore the power of partnering in your neck of the woods.

Topics: , , ,

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Opinion: Washington Tree Fruit Industry Investing In Research

  1. I found this article very informative and interesting. I congratulate the fruit industry of Washington State for their foresight and long-term thinking and their partnership with WSU. As support for agricultural research and extension appears to be diminishing across the USA, this is a very promising route being trail-blazed by the tree fruit industry of WA and by WSU. I wish you every success in this endeavor!
    RECL

Apples & Pears Stories
full-size-waef-winner-estebangaribay-grannysmith
Apples & Pears
September 9, 2016
Year Of The Apple Art Contest Winner Features ‘Granny Smith’
The Washington Apple Education Foundation (WAEF) contest, sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, was won by 2016 Sunnyside High School graduate Esteban Garibay. Read More
apples4ed
Apples & Pears
September 5, 2016
USApple Seeks Nominations For “Apples For Education” Program
Program seeks school programs to fund through donations made during campaign, boost apple consumption. Read More
EverCrisp apples
Apples & Pears
September 4, 2016
Eco Apple Program Sees Boost In Acres
A network of farmers focused on finding the most ecological way to grow fruit in the Northeast have increased by Read More
gmo apple
Apples & Pears
August 29, 2016
Public Comments Now Accepted For ‘Arctic Fuji’ Apple
APHIS releases determination to extend deregulation to third release from Okanagan Specialty Fruits. Read More
gmo apple
Apples & Pears
August 11, 2016
GMO Nonbrowning Fuji Apple One Step Closer To Approval
USDA moves Okanagan Specialty Fruits' variety to nonregulated status; public comment period is forthcoming. Read More
Walden Hollow Angry Orchard hard cider
Apples & Pears
August 8, 2016
Angry Orchard Debuts Cider Made From New York Apples
Walden Hollow is named after cider house’s town and is all about fruit from the Empire State. Read More
Photo credit: International Fruit Tree Association
Apples & Pears
August 5, 2016
Washington Apple Crop Huge, But Not A Record
The 2016 Washington apple harvest is predicted to be about 133 million boxes. Read More
The Latest
Apples & Pears
September 26, 2016
New Apple Variety Is One Stemilt Hopes C…
University of Minnesota apple variety will be grown and packed exclusively by Stemilt. Read More
Apples & Pears
September 23, 2016
USDA Approves Nonregulated Status For ‘A…
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announces an extension of deregulation to a line of genetically engineered (GE) Read More
Apples & Pears
September 23, 2016
Growers Encouraged To Monitor Fruit Temp…
With early harvests, Randy Beaudry of Michigan State University says temperature monitoring is a must. Read More
Apples & Pears
September 9, 2016
Year Of The Apple Art Contest Winner Fea…
The Washington Apple Education Foundation (WAEF) contest, sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, was won by 2016 Sunnyside High School graduate Esteban Garibay. Read More
Apples & Pears
September 5, 2016
USApple Seeks Nominations For “Apples Fo…
Program seeks school programs to fund through donations made during campaign, boost apple consumption. Read More
Apples & Pears
September 4, 2016
Eco Apple Program Sees Boost In Acres
A network of farmers focused on finding the most ecological way to grow fruit in the Northeast have increased by Read More
Apples & Pears
August 29, 2016
Public Comments Now Accepted For ‘Arctic…
APHIS releases determination to extend deregulation to third release from Okanagan Specialty Fruits. Read More
Apples & Pears
August 11, 2016
GMO Nonbrowning Fuji Apple One Step Clos…
USDA moves Okanagan Specialty Fruits' variety to nonregulated status; public comment period is forthcoming. Read More
Apples & Pears
August 8, 2016
Angry Orchard Debuts Cider Made From New…
Walden Hollow is named after cider house’s town and is all about fruit from the Empire State. Read More
Apples & Pears
August 5, 2016
Washington Apple Crop Huge, But Not A Re…
The 2016 Washington apple harvest is predicted to be about 133 million boxes. Read More
Apples & Pears
July 28, 2016
Seeing The Real Big Apple In New York On…
Hot temperatures, lack of precipitation, mechanization, and high density production systems were among the highlights of the International Fruit Tree Association’s annual study tour. Read More
Apples & Pears
July 26, 2016
Walmart Begins Selling So-Called ‘…
Cosmetically challenged apples are the company’s first foray into a global movement to cut food waste. Read More
Apples & Pears
July 8, 2016
Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine Expands In…
More townships added as small populations of the pest are found in municipalities adjacent to previously quarantined areas. Read More
Apples & Pears
June 30, 2016
Pairing PGRs In Pears Helps Control Vigo…
When it comes to a hearty variety like ‘Anjou,’ researchers see potential in using a one-two punch of PGRs to help control growth and ensure return bloom. Read More
Apples & Pears
June 21, 2016
New York Beverage Credits To Include Win…
Credit allows wineries and cideries to reinvest savings in business. Read More
Apples & Pears
June 21, 2016
Allen To Retire From New York Apple Asso…
Industry supporter to leave in January after 20 years with association. Read More
Apples & Pears
June 8, 2016
Pacific Northwest Pear Crop Expected To …
Tiny increase expected from Washington and Oregon over 2015, but crop will be lower than most recent years. Read More
Apples & Pears
June 8, 2016
Mexico Will Not Add Duties To Washington…
Country determines imports from the U.S. did not hurt the domestic industry. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]