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Tree fruit groups approve merger

Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Four tree fruit associations in Washington have voted to consolidate for one voice and to end duplication of some services. They are timing it to coincide with the Sept. 1 start of the 2014 apple crop.

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Four Washington tree fruit organizations have voted to consolidate and a new transitional board has begun meeting.

The Washington State Horticultural Association, Washington Growers Clearing House Association, Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association and the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association are on target to merge by Sept. 1.

They are doing so to give the industry one voice in lobbying state and federal government and to end some duplication in tracking tree fruit storage, shipments, prices and handling regulatory and legislative affairs.

Boards of all four groups approved the merger and the transitional board of the new Washington State Tree Fruit Association is meeting, said West Mathison, president of Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, the nation’s largest non-citrus tree fruit company. Mathison is a member of the transitional board and chaired an industry task force working on the merger for the past year.

The transitional board is working to ensure the Sept. 1 storage report is on time, that leadership is selected, a first-year budget is set and that a new board is in place by the annual meeting on Dec. 1-3, Mathison said.

While Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers board approved the merger, its members will vote on final approval once legal merger documents are completed, said Jon DeVaney, executive director of YVGS. The same is true for the horticultural association, said Bruce Grim, its executive director.

Members of the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association approved the merger at a June 11 meeting.

The Washington Growers Clearing House Association held an election of its voting members and received 417 out of 778 ballots back. The vote was 94 percent in favor of merger, said Kirk Mayer, association manager.

The Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association will be the vehicle for the merger, Mayer said. It will adopt the bylaws of the new association for quicker set up and so that the traffic association’s health insurance plan can continue for staff and industry, he said.

The transitional board has completed an application period in picking a new president. DeVaney said he applied for the position. Mayer, Grim and Charles Pomianek, manager of the traffic association, will be retiring.

The Clearing House association has appointed a transitional committee that will pay expenses and disburse assets equal to about six months of operating expenses, Mayer said. He would not say how much that is. He said assets likely will be divided among the new association, a scholarship at the Washington Apple Education Foundation and the industry’s WSU endowment program.


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