Good Fruit Grower

April 15

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M ichigan fruit industry leaders were somewhat surprised and a bit disappointed by the low turnout in the mail balloting to create the Michigan Tree Fruit Research and Develop- ment Program. Only 20 percent of the ballots were returned. However, of the growers who voted, more than 70 percent were in favor, and that's the important thing, say Phil Schwallier and Jim Nugent, both of whom had spo- ken to grower groups to convince them they had to put up some money to support the research and extension functions of their land-grant university. If the commission performs well, it will be resound- ingly approved when renewal time comes five years from now, they believe. Schwallier is the Michigan State University tree fruit educator on Fruit Ridge north of Grand Rapids and coor- dinator of the fruit research station at Clarksville. Nugent retired from a similar role and position at the Northwest Michigan station at Traverse. Both men own and manage fruit farms as well. Over the last decade, they have seen funding for research station operations fall by half, and the effects are showing in staff shortages, aging equipment, and lack of maintenance. "If the program works well, and I think it will, the lower grower participation in the vote won't be a prob- lem," Schwallier said, and Nugent agreed. Schwallier noted that when programs are proposed that call for raising money, the "no" voters turn out and the "yes" voters show less enthusiasm. So, while support seemed lackluster, there was no overt opposition. "I am not overly concerned by the low voter turn- out since that is typical unless there is a problem," said Dawn Drake, manager of the Michigan Processing Apple Growers, who had also spoken to several gatherings and favored the proposal. "We heard no negative comments as we went through our listening sessions, presentations at Great Lakes Expo, and various meetings, trying to explain the proposed program. There were always a lot of questions, which was a good thing," she said. New entity In voting to approve the program, growers created a new entity under state law that was set up immediately (effective April 1). It will collect assessments on the 2014 crop. The new entity will generate funds, estimated at about $675,000 a year, to support infrastructure at Michigan State University's four fruit experiment stations; support research projects; and, if necessary, support extension positions that the growers want but the university cannot fund. The mail balloting took place the last two weeks in February and was conducted by the Michigan Depart- ment of Agriculture and Rural Development. Results were reported March 12. Ballots were mailed to 1,335 producers, and only 266 voted. Of the 253 valid ballots (13 were spoiled), 181 pro- ducers voted yes (72 percent), representing 544 million pounds of fruit (81 percent). Seventy-two producers voted no (38 percent), representing 130 million pounds (19 percent). For the program to be adopted, under the Michigan law controlling formation of such groups, more than half of the ballots representing more than half of the vol- ume must approve the proposal—but only among those voting. The Michigan Tree Fruit Research and Development Program will be administered by the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission, which will be made up of nine producers to be nominated by the fruit industry and appointed by the governor. Commissioners will determine assess- ment rates and guide the course of the beginning stages of the program. Funding will come from assessments on apples, cherries, peaches, and plums. The program calls for a maximum assessment of $2.50 per ton for cherries sold, 4 cents per hundredweight for apples, $2 a ton for peaches, and $4.50 a ton for plums. Ten growers formed a committee to develop the pro- gram and explain it to growers. These were Jim Nugent, Mark Miezio, Mike Van Agtmael, Jim Engelsma, Pat Goodfellow, Randy Willmeng, Fred Koenigshof, Rick Say- ler, Steve Thome, and Nels Nyblad. In stumping for the program, they made several appeals: First, the new program is separate from other estab- lished assessments for apples, cherries, peaches, and plums. These new dollars would not replace the com- modity-assessed funds that are used to support current production and promotion research. Second, the intent is to acquire matching funds from the Michigan legislature—by showing legislators that growers were willing to tax themselves—and therefore double the overall pool of dollars to support the efforts. Third, the commission of growers will have total con- trol of how the funds are spent. The commission, com- prised of growers representing all fruit-growing regions of the state, will allocate funds based on prioritization of 42 APRIL 15, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Consider for your next planting: • BRUCE PONDER • SUSAN WILKINSON • ADAM WEIL • DAVE WEIL 503-538-2131 • FAX: 503-538-7616 BENEFITS: • Disease tolerant • Cold hardy • Adapts well to all cherry-growing districts • Forms flower buds and comes into bearing quicker than Mazzard with a better distribution of flower buds Roots available for SPRING DELIVERY Call Tree Connection: 800-421-4001 Dwarfing Cherry Rootstock Krymsk ® 5 Krymsk ® 6 [cv. VSL-2, USPP 15,723] [cv. LC-52, USPP 16,114] "Krymsk ® 5 and Krymsk ® 6 cherry rootstocks have proven to be the best rootstock for our orchards. They are yield efficient, grow and adapt well, and are cold hardy." —John Morton The Dalles, Oregon Michigan growers approve Tree Fruit Commission Few growers voted, but those who did showed strong support. by Richard Lehnert

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