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Tree fruit organization merger voting continues

Dan Wheat

Capital Press

It looks like four Washington tree fruit organizations will wrap up voting on whether to merge in mid-June. Goals are speaking with one voice and less duplication of services.

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Four Washington tree fruit organizations are in various stages of approval of consolidation into one association.

The board of the Washington State Horticultural Association approved merging May 22. The same day the Washington Growers Clearing House Association board passed a resolution recommending its 785 voting members approve the merger during two weeks of voting by mail that closes June 10. Both associations are in Wenatchee.

Previously, on May 19, the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association board approved merger documents and decided its members, approximately 34 tree fruit companies, will vote. The vote is set for a June 11 special meeting.

The board of the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association voted May 19 for consolidation subject to review of legal counsel and a possible full membership meeting for final action.

The Horticultural Association is 110 years old, the Traffic and Grower-Shippers associations are nearly 100 years old and the Clearing House is 73 years old. There is some overlapping of what they do in tracking tree fruit storage, shipments, prices and handling regulatory and legislative affairs.

They began discussing a merger in 2009. A task force of the four began meeting in 2013 and drafted a plan and bylaws for a new Washington State Tree Fruit Association.

The timeline for voting slipped a time or two through the spring. A Sept. 1 startup of the new organization remains the goal, said Kirk Mayer, Clearing House manager.

The Clearing House resolution notes the decisions of the boards of the other three groups to merge and says it would be difficult for the Clearing House to continue to provide the current level of services to growers without the support of the other organizations. Duplication of services would make it harder to obtain financial support from companies and growers for the association to continue, the resolution states.

The resolution lists advantages to consolidation: independent growers will have five of 13 board positions; board meetings will be open to all members; there will be one voice in legislative, regulatory, industry and media affairs; office work and services will be streamlined; assessments to growers will be the same or less; and grower membership should be more inclusive.

Mayer said the Clearing House’s approximate 1,200 non-voting members still can become voting members and vote. Ballots were mailed to voting members May 23 and must be postmarked by June 10 or delivered to the Clearing House office by 5 p.m. June 10.

Twenty-five percent of eligible voters must vote and two-thirds of that amount must vote in favor for consolidation to pass, he said.



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