O'Rourke headlines annual horticulture convention
By DAN WHEAT
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Exports are becoming more critical for the Northwest tree fruit industry, a leading expert will tell those attending the 106th annual meeting of the Washington State Horticultural Association Dec. 6-8 at the Yakima Convention Center.
With most population, income and market growth occurring outside the United States, the tree fruit industry will have to become even more export-oriented, said Desmond O'Rourke, retired Washington State University agricultural economist and private consultant. About 30 percent of the fruit is exported now.
Competition for apples and pears in the U.S. market continues to intensify from newer fruits and berries and an ever expanding selection of snack foods, beverages and "in-betweens" like yogurt, O'Rourke said.
O'Rourke will deliver the 31st annual Batjer address -- the main keynote speech -- at the convention the morning of Dec. 6.
Born in Ireland, he obtained a degree in classics from Queens University in Belfast and in business from University College in Dublin. He worked in advertising, marketing research and business and sports journalism before getting his doctorate in agricultural economics from the University of California-Davis.
From 1970 to 2000, he was an ag economics professor at WSU, specializing in fruit marketing.
A private consultant since his retirement, he has been regarded as the leading analyst of economic implications in the production and marketing of apples, pears and cherries for more than 25 years. O'Rourke has spoken around the world on global apple issues.
Other keynote speakers at the convention are Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and Jay Brunner, superintendent of the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee.
Hastings will speak about ag-related issues facing Congress. Brunner will discuss phase-out of the pesticide Guthion, new research discoveries in the area of biological control, a pheromone for pear psylla and will talk about spotted wing drosophila.
The association bills the meeting as the largest gathering of non-citrus tree fruit orchardists, shippers, suppliers and vendors in the nation. Normally about 1,000 people attend, mainly from Washington with some from Oregon and Idaho and places beyond.
A full meeting guide, registration and lodging information is available at the association's website, www.wahort.org.