Washington Tree Fruit Associations Merge

Washington Tree Fruit Associations Merge

An idea that has been percolating in the Washington tree fruit industry for years has just about come to fruition, as the Transition Board of Directors of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA) has named Jon DeVaney as president.

The soon-to-be consolidated industry organization will be formed from the merger of the Washington State Horticultural Association (WSHA), Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association (YVGSA), Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association (WVTA) and Washington Growers Clearing House Association (WGCH).

Jon DeVaney

Jon DeVaney

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DeVaney currently heads the YVGSA. He has long been considered to have the inside track to lead the new organization because of his political background and the fact he is the only one of the leaders of the four organizations who will not be soon retiring.

“I’m really honored with being entrusted with bringing these four organizations together into one united association,” DeVaney said.

A Sept. 1 target date has been set to complete the necessary filings, hire staff and commence operations. Elections for a permanent 13-person Board of Directors will be held this fall and the elected board will take office at the annual meeting Dec.1-3 in Kennewick, WA. That was to have been the first meeting in the century-old WSHA’s history to be held outside of either Wenatchee or Yakima, noted WSHA Executive Director Bruce Grim. Now it’s not certain if it will be the last meeting of the WSHA or the first meeting of the WSTFA.

“There may be two logos on the program,” he said with a chuckle, “we’re not sure.”

Time For A Change
In any case, it was clear the time had come for a change, Grim said, noting that the clearinghouses were formed decades ago when growers were getting price offers out in their orchards, and realized they needed to share information.

“If you look at the industry as it looks today, would you go out and create four organizations? The answer is clearly ‘No,’” he said, “you’d create one.”

By having one organization, you avoid duplication of services, which is not only less effective, it’s a waste of money. For example, both the WSHA and the YVGSA have lobbyists in Olympia, the state capital. Legislators aren’t always certain who speaks with the voice of the industry, Grim said.

“It not only doesn’t make sense,” he said, “going forward, we’ll have a greater clarity of message in Olympia.”

The new organization is simply going the way of the fruit industry and the American economy in general, said DeVaney.

“It’s all about delivering high quality production and keeping costs down,” he said. “The industry’s associations should be doing the same thing that our members have to do.”