Good Fruit Grower

January 2014

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Meet Chris Britton, USApple chair What kind of leader was the committee looking for? "We're looking for someone who can come in and be an effective face and voice for the industry," he said. "There will be lots of changes in the next few years in how our industry works. The last four to five years have been a very profitable time, but we always have up and down cycles. We need someone to take us into the next cycle and grow the business, grow the industry." "Jim is smart, great with people, and we believe he will work well with U.S. Apple Association's existing staff," Britton said in early December shortly after the selection was made. "He appears to be a stayer, not one who moves around, and he's not looking at this position to use as a stepping stone." Will there be other management changes at USApple? "The current staff is extremely competent, and Diane Kurrle has done a great job as interim CEO, managing the organization and office," Britton said. "Part of the executive search process was about finding the right leader that will mesh with the current staff and best utilize their talents, while bringing about their growth." How is USApple funded and what California grower does its funding future look like? —Chris Britton Britton, an affable, fourth-generation family farmer "Obviously, there's a real concern from Modesto, California, was elected chair of U.S. Apple about where funding will come from in Association during its annual apple outlook conference held in August. the future," he said. "We are looking for a leader who can He's part of Britton Konynenburg Partners, a partnership created 40 years ago be creative in how to fund the organization's activities, between his father, John, and Derk Van Konynenburg. The partnership now includes and not just tax the rich." sons of the partners, Britton and Paul Van Konynenburg. The two-family partnership USApple represents all segments of the apple indusmanages about 1,400 acres of apples, apricots, cherries, grapes, peaches, walnuts, and try, from grower to shipper to processor to allied indusalmonds, and provides farm and real estate management services. tries. Membership dues represent about 80 percent of Good Fruit Grower visited with Britton, 45, during apple harvest to learn more about the group's annual $2 million budget. Other income him, his goals as chair of USApple, and the organization's priorities in 2014. includes sponsorships and revenue generated from BK Partners produces primarily four varieties of apples—Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, USApple's annual meeting. Of the $1.6 million in income and Cripps Pink—and a few other minor varieties. In recent years, Britton has overseen from membership dues, nearly 90 percent or $1.4 million the conversion to the V-trellis tree training system in all of their orchards, including comes from 14 state apple commissions or organizations apricots, cherries, peaches, and apples, as a way to increase yields and improve color. that pay dues based on a five-year average of volume of The partnership is also developing a new line of super-sweet apricot varieties called apples produced. Washington State currently pays about CandyCots. 60 percent of the total generated by the 14-state apple Britton's involvement with the national apple group began more than a decade ago groups, or more than $840,000. when former USApple chair Mark Lewis, a California grower and shipper, encouraged "USApple can't do everything and be everything for him to get involved. Britton had recently returned to the family farm partnership after everybody," Britton said. "That's why you need a straten years of running his own stockbrokerage firm. tegic focus. You need to be good at the things that you "Mark thought the smarts of those on the board of directors would rub off on me," he do because you can't chase all of the fires. You just can't said. Britton has been a board member since 2002 and has held the offices of secretary raise enough money to do everything." and vice chair. What are the top three USApple priorities in 2014? "When I joined the board, I was young and had no experience in growing apples, so I "Immigration, immigration, and immigration," he kept my mouth shut and listened and learned. I got way more out of serving than I gave. said. "Immigration reform is still the number-one issue It was a great learning experience, and I've enjoyed visiting board members across the we are focused on getting passed. Without adequate supcountry to see how things are done differently. The board is a great bunch of guys, and ply of skilled workers to harvest the crop, we don't have they've all been a great help to me." apples to sell. hris Britton's first priority as the 2013-2014 chair of the nation's apple industry organization—hiring a new executive officer—seems relatively easy compared with the other top issues challenging apple growers and packers. The new president and chief executive, Jim Bair, will begin duties on January 6. Bair has served for more than 20 years as the vice president of governmental affairs for the North American Millers Association, a trade group based in the Washington, D.C., area representing millers of wheat, corn, oats, and rye in the United States and Canada. He graduated from Iowa State University in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in agronomy and has received several continuing education certificates from Notre Dame and San Jose State University. More than 100 names were considered and 15 candidates interviewed by the selection committee since last summer when the search committee began looking to replace Nancy Foster, president and chief executive officer, who left at the end of August. The search committee was chaired by Mike Wade of Washington. Other members of the committee included Mark Nicholson, New York; Bill Dodd, Ohio; Julia Rothwell, Michigan; and John Rice of Pennsylvania. Chris Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, said he was delighted that Bair was selected. "I've known him for a number of years, working by Melissa Hansen on policy issues in Washington, D.C., and I think he will be an outstanding leader of the national association," he said. C Securing an adequate workforce is the organization's number-one priority. 24 JANUARY 1, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER "Jim's not looking at this position to use as a stepping stone."

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