Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2012 12:00 PM
Douglas: 'The goal is to have one clear voice' on issues
By DAN WHEAT
WENATCHEE, Wash. -- The Washington State Horticultural Association and Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association hope to combine their lobbying efforts before the state Legislature convenes on Jan. 14.
The Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association is interested in possibly joining the effort, said Bruce Grim, executive director of the hort association in Wenatchee.
"The goal is to have greater clarity of speaking with one voice so when people in Olympia want to know what the tree fruit industry thinks about something, they know who to turn to," Grim said.
A draft agreement is being worked on, he said.
"We are one tree-fruit industry in the state, not the Okanogan, Wenatchee, Yakima and Tri-Cities portions," he said.
"At times, we have been very fragmented, so the goal is to have one clear voice so we're not sending contradictory messages," said David Douglas, president of Douglas Fruit Co., Pasco. He worked on the issue during the year he just completed as president of the Hort Association.
The combined or coordinated lobbying will pertain to just the state level.
The Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima and the U.S. Apple Association in Vienna, Va., will continue representing the state tree fruit industry at the federal level, Grim said.
Meanwhile, a consultant will begin working with the Washington State Horticultural Association, Yakima Valley Grower-Shippers Association, Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association and Washington Growers Clearing House Association next year about potential consolidation, Douglas said. Reducing duplication of work with -- or perhaps without -- consolidation will be discussed, Grim said.
Of those associations, all but the Washington State Horticultural Association collect real-time marketing information about sales, he said. There needs to be discussion about whether that's needed, he said.
"It's not so much about saving money, we already save a lot, as it is about delivering services better with more clarity," he said.
Organizations may consolidate in phases over time, Grim said.
A year ago, West Mathison, president of Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, and finishing his year as president of the Washington State Horticultural Association, called for a new industry organization with strong participation from vertically integrated packers, growers and marketers. He envisioned one with an executive leadership board and subcommittees and managers overseeing: political and regulatory issues; education and communication; shipment and price statistics; and technology.
Speaking after Mathison at the Washington State Horticultural Association convention, former 4th District Congressman Sid Morrison, a Zillah grower, said the industry depends on many voices with a unified message and that he wasn't sure the industry should go to one voice.