Dan Wheat/Capital Press File
YAKIMA, Wash. — Two Northwest tree fruit trade organizations are awaiting review by the U.S. departments of Commerce and Justice before proceeding with plans to combine operations.
Northwest Fruit Exporters plans to become a dues-paying member of the Northwest Horticultural Council and contract its staffing and management with NHC. Both are based in Yakima.
The effort has been underway for more than a year and was expected to be completed this fall. NFE sought Department of Commerce approval to retain its Export Trade Certificate of Review, which allows it to receive shipment volumes and timing information of cherry exports to Japan to coordinate efficient Japanese inspections.
In July, the Commerce Department notified NFE the request will also be reviewed by the Justice Department, said Mark Powers, NHC president.
“We were hoping that wouldn’t be necessary but now it’s taking longer,” he said, adding he likely won’t know more until the end of the year.
The two nonprofit trade corporations plan to continue operating as separate legal entities so NFE can keep its Export Trade Certificate of Review and continue to be funded by grower assessments. NHC is funded by the Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers, Idaho Apple Commission, Oregon Sweet Cherry Commission, Washington Apple Commission, Washington State Fruit Commission and Washington State Tree Fruit Association.
The intent of the restructuring is staffing efficiencies and speaking with one voice on foreign market issues, Powers has said. Some NFE board members opposed the plan, saying they saw no need.
NFE will operate under the policy of its board but be managed by NHC. NFE will appoint two trustees to NHC’s nine-member board. NFE will simplify its governance structure, no longer seeking nominations for board members from other industry organizations and eliminating apple-pear and cherry commodity committee governing boards.
NHC was incorporated in 1947 and focuses on national and international policy issues affecting tree fruit growers and shippers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
NFE was formed in 1978 to manage export market preparation procedures for fresh sweet cherries to Japan. In 1992, its role was expanded to include export of apples to Mexico, China and Japan.
In March 2014, at the initiative of the Apple Commission, apple market access regarding China, Japan, Vietnam, India, Australia, South Africa, Egypt and Israel were switched from NFE to NHC.
NFE continued handling apple market access to Mexico and protocols or work plans for the export of apples to foreign countries.