Cherry and stone fruit growers throughout the state of Washington have agreed to make a $5 million investment over the next eight years at Washington State University research and extension centers in Prosser and Wenatchee. This builds on a similar measure voted on by apple and pear growers in 2011 to galvanize cooperation between the industry and WSU.
"The close partnership between Washington's tree fruit industry and Washington State University continues to be transformational," said WSU President Elson S. Floyd. "Working together for more than a century, we have helped to make Washington a world leader in tree fruit production.
"The assessment by cherry and stone fruit growers, in combination with the $27 million investment in WSU made by apple and pear growers in 2011, helps to ensure that our partnership in progress continues for an even brighter future for our state," he said. "We are extremely grateful for the industry's confidence and investment in WSU."
State Department of Agriculture officials certified the election results. Separate ballots were mailed for cherries and stone fruit. The referendum was approved by 338 of the 565 ballots cast by cherry growers, a 59 percent approval rate, and 32 of the 47 ballots cast by stone fruit growers, a 68 percent approval rate.
Cherry growers will be assessed $4 per ton and stone fruit growers $1 per ton.
This investment comes at a time when the state's $46 billion food and agriculture industry continues to increase its contribution to the state's economy. Annually, the Washington tree fruit industry accounts for more than $7 billion of economic impact, with more than a third of that derived from exports.
Specifically, the funds will be allocated as follows:
$12 million to establish endowed chairs that will provide perpetual support for the tree fruit research program. WSU will cover the salary and benefit costs for each faculty position.
$12 million to create an endowment to establish new positions in tree fruit production regions to accelerate the transfer of new information and technologies for Washington growers and shippers. These positions will reinvigorate WSU extension activities and focus on industry priorities.
$8 million to create an endowment to support dedicated research orchards in Prosser and Wenatchee and enhance development and evaluation of cutting-edge technologies and practices.