Michigan tree fruit producers have until Feb. 22 to vote in a referendum on whether to continue the Michigan Tree Fruit Research & Development Program.
Ballots will be mailed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to Michigan apple, cherry, peach and plum producers of record. Eligible producers with questions, or those not receiving a ballot, should call MDARD toll-free at 800-292-3939.
The Michigan Tree Fruit Research & Development Program was developed to improve the economic position and competitiveness of the Michigan tree fruit industry by supporting fruit research stations, research and Extension programs. The program is designed to keep Michigan’s tree fruit industry on the cutting edge of new technology, as well as help implement new research that keeps Michigan’s farmers economically viable in the world market.
The program is a public body independent of MDARD. The board is comprised of nine tree fruit producers appointed by the governor. MDARD Director Gary McDowell and a person appointed by the dean of Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources are nonvoting ex-officio members.
The program was first approved in 2014 and, by law, must be renewed every five years. Currently, Michigan tree fruit may be assessed at a maximum rate of $2.50 per ton for cherries sold; 4 cents per cwt. for apples sold; $2.00 per ton for peaches sold; and $4.50 per ton for plums sold.
The commission can use a sliding scale to set the assessment rate each year during its spring meeting, adjusting the rate as priorities are set. The commission may set a lesser rate for categories of fruit with a lower grade or value. If passed, the program is sent back to producers every five years for a continuation referendum.
For the program to be renewed, more than 50% of the producer votes cast, representing more than 50 percent of the total number of bushels represented on the cast ballots, must approve it.
For the purpose of this referendum, each producer, partnership or corporation is entitled to one vote. All ballots must be filled out completely, signed and postmarked by Feb. 22. Ballots should be sent to MDARD, Executive Office, P.O. Box 30017, Lansing, MI 48909.