Grower fees to support WSU
Three endowments envisioned for tree fruit research, support
By DAN WHEAT
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Leaders of the Washington tree fruit industry are asking growers to contribute $32 million to Washington State University's $1 billion fundraising campaign.
The request was announced Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the Washington State Horticultural Association at the Yakima Convention Center by Jay Brunner, superintendent of the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee.
"The College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resources has been given 25 percent of that goal ($1 billion) to come up with in funding, and we've been working on how the tree fruit industry could handle its share," Brunner said.
Ten tree fruit industry leaders discussed the matter for four months, Brunner said. The consensus, he said, was to ask growers to assess themselves $1 per ton on apples and pears and $4 per ton on cherries and soft fruit for up to eight years or whenever the goal is reached.
The amount raised annually would vary because of differences in crop sizes, he said.
The assessment equals what growers already are assessed for research through the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission. It equals about 2.2 cents per 40-pound box of apples, Brunner said.
New assessments require approval by a simple majority of growers who already pay assessments, Brunner said. A vote will be taken in spring, he said.
The $1 billion WSU campaign began in 2006. So far, $532.2 million has been pledged. On Dec. 2, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen donated $26 million to support the university's School for Global Animal Health.
The campaign will support scholarships, fellowships, research and recruiting and retaining faculty.
Proponents of the campaign say it is very important since university budget cuts are likely, given the state's $5.7 billion budget shortfall.
The $32 million raised by tree fruit growers would go into three endowments to help the tree fruit industry, Brunner said.
One $12 million endowment, at 4 percent interest, would generate $480,000 annually for support personnel and equipment for six faculty positions.
A second $12 million endowment, also generating $480,000 annually at 4 percent interest, would fund five positions to get research knowledge and technology out to the industry, Brunner said.
It would supplement county extension, which is being reduced by counties, he said. The five positions would be tied to WSU research and extension centers instead of the counties, he said. The personnel could be used to address new problems like the spotted winged drosophila fruit pest, he said.
The third endowment, at $8 million, would generate support for research orchard operations that the state has never fully funded, Brunner said.
Washington State Horticultural Association:www.wahort.org