Apple and pear growers throughout the state have agreed to make a historic investment of $27 million over the next eight years to support tree fruit research and extension at Washington State University. It is the largest single gift in the university's history.
"A gift of this magnitude is truly transformational," says WSU President Elson S. Floyd. "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."
Washington State Department of Agriculture officials certified the election results at end of day Friday, Sept. 16. Separate ballots were mailed for apples, pears, cherries and stone fruit, with producers of each commodity voting on the assessment.
Of the 791 ballots cast by apple growers, 450, or 57%, approved a $1 per ton assessment dedicated to WSU research and extension. Of the 265 ballots cast by pear growers, 148, or 56%, approved a $1 per ton assessment for WSU research and extension. Cherry and stone fruit growers did not approve the special project assessment, with 56 and 57% opposed, respectively.
This investment comes at a time when the $35 billion food and agriculture industry continues to increase its contribution to the state's economy. Annually, the Washington tree fruit industry accounts for more than $6 billion of economic impact, with more than a third of that total derived from exports.
"Washington growers support research and extension because they know it's important to invest in the future of the industry," says Dan Newhouse, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture. "We grow the best quality tree fruit in the world, but we need to be ready to respond to a changing marketplace, unknown pests and diseases and other uncertainties we can't anticipate. This agricultural research at WSU will be a valuable tool as we seek to manage future risks."
Jim Doornink, chair of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, said approval of the special project assessment speaks to a rich legacy of partnership between growers and WSU, and acknowledges that there is "still much work to be done."
"The Washington tree fruit industry is a global competitor today in part due to the partnership and close collaboration among growers and scientists at WSU," says Doornink, who raises cherries, apricots, peaches, pears and apples in the Yakima Valley.
"The results of that relationship show up every day in the orchard, the packing house and the market. We are thrilled with this endorsement by apple and pear growers, and as a commission working with WSU, we remain committed to serving all fruit growers in the state."