Washington Gets Support for “Fruitful” Industry

Tree-fruit growers in Washington state support further research and innovation within their industry.

by Dani Yokhna
Apple-tree orchard
Photo by Rachael Brugger
An investment by apple and pear growers will boost tree-fruit research and extension activites at Washington State University.

Apple and pear growers throughout Washington have agreed to make a historic investment of $27 million over the next eight years to support tree-fruit research and extension activities at Washington State University.

This investment comes at a time when Washington’s $35 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 $6 billion in economic impact, with more than a third of that derived from exports.

“Washington growers support research and extension because they know it’s important to invest in the future of the industry,” says Dan Newhouse, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture. “We grow the best-quality tree fruit in the world, but we need to be ready to respond to a changing marketplace, unknown pests and diseases, and other uncertainties we can’t anticipate. This agricultural research at WSU will be a valuable tool as we seek to manage future risks.”

Specifically, the funds will be spent as follows:

  • $11 million to create six endowed chairs to provide perpetual support for the tree-fruit research program
  • $11 million to create an endowment to establish new WSU extension positions in tree-fruit production regions to accelerate the transfer of new information and technologies for Washington growers and shippers
  • $5 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

Jim Doornink, chair of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, says approval of the investment speaks to a rich legacy of partnership between tree-fruit growers and WSU, though he acknowledges there’s still much more work to be done.

“The Washington tree-fruit industry is a global competitor today in part due to the partnership and close collaboration among growers and scientists at WSU,” says Doornink, who raises cherries, apricots, peaches, pears and apples in the Yakima Valley. “The results of that relationship show up every day in the orchard, the packing house and the market.”

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Research and innovation have always been at the heart of the industry’s success, says Bruce Allen, a Washington tree-fruit grower and shipper as well as a member of the volunteer leadership team that helped spearhead the tree-fruit campaign.

“The Washington tree-fruit industry’s investment in WSU has always paid big dividends,” Allen says. “We, as growers, benefit economically from the partnership; this investment guarantees that will continue.”

Dan Bernardo, dean of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, agrees. Over the past decade, WSU has made significant and strategic investments in all areas of tree fruit research and extension, he says. Leading up to the investment decision, WSU worked closely with tree-fruit-industry representatives to ensure their dollars are spent where they’ll have the most impact.

Bernardo also noted that he’ll work directly with an advisory committee appointed by tree-fruit industry organizations to ensure industry-endowed programs perform at the highest level and produce results for the growers and shippers of Washington.

Allied industry members have made additional gifts of more than $500,000 in support of tree-fruit research at WSU, and efforts will continue to secure an additional $10 million in gifts from other businesses associated with the tree-fruit industry over the next year.


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