Good Fruit Grower

December 2012

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3 Younger leaders Businesses in the tree fruit industry are being run by younger people. "I see a lot of people in their 30s and 40s taking over the businesses from their fathers, and they're going to have an agenda and priorities that are different from their parents and uncles," Cleveringa said. "It's an exciting time." This trend is happening now because it's easier to make changes and transition to the next generation when a business is profitable and not under financial stress. "You're going to see new ideas tried and brought forth. You're going to see change that they've wanted to make, whether it's a new packing line, more automation, or newer plantings. "I think things will happen faster. When a technology is seen as a game-changer by this new group, it will be adopted more quickly, and those who want to stand back and wait for it to be proven in ten years, those are the ones who are retiring." In the past, there's been a small group of early adopters in the industry who are quick to try out new technology, while others in the industry wait and see. Cleveringa said the early adopter group will be bigger. "It's exciting because the adoption rate is going to be much quicker." 4 Tougher times Washington apple growers have enjoyed strong returns for the past few years and a record $22.71 a box for the 2011 crop, according to the Washington Grow- ers Clearing House Association. This season, other regions of the world have low crops, putting Washington in an enviable position. "We could not ask for more," Cleveringa said. "But that's going to change." He expects that interest rates will go up, and other regions will rebound with high production, resulting in tougher marketing for Washington producers and lower returns. "That will drive the next cycle of change in the indus- try," he said. "It's coming, and if you're not prepared, it's going to be a pretty tough go." Bankers don't have the incentives they had in the past to lend money, and they're going to be more interested in lending large quantities of money to big players, who have plenty of collateral, rather than working with small growers. Cash flow will be crucial, he said. "You have to have the cash to pay the bills. On the books, you can be worth a million, but if you can't access it, it doesn't do you any good. Take the time to figure out how much it costs to run your operation. When times are good, that's when growers are the worst bookkeepers." President West Mathison called for consolidation to streamline industry organizations in Washington and avoid duplication of effort. "Things are in the works, and discussions are being 5 held," Cleveringa said. "People are talking more openly than five or ten years ago. Redundancy just costs all of us money, and the more unified voice our industry can have, the better off we are. The more unified we are, the more strategic our approach can be." • GOOD FRUIT GROWER DECEMBER 2012 11 Industry consolidation Cleveringa hopes to see a continuation of a discussion that began two years ago when Hort For 2013 ask us about . . . photo by geraldine warner

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