Michigan’s tree fruit industries propose establishing a new Tree Fruit Commission

A new assessment program has been proposed to provide funds for infrastructure that supports educational and research efforts within Michigan’s tree fruit industry.

Two public hearings were held on the proposed Michigan Tree Fruit Commission on Nov. 25-26, 2013. The first meeting was held in Comstock Park, Mich., and the second finished up yesterday, Nov. 26, in Traverse City, Mich., at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center. The Michigan Tree Fruit Commission is a proposed new method of assessing tree fruits a small amount of money to support Michigan’s research and extension services. Dollars generated from fresh and processed cherries, apples, plums and peaches will be pooled to provide resources to Michigan’s fruit research stations, Michigan State University Extension field agents and campus specialists involved with tree fruit research and education. The intention of the Commission is to acquire matching funds from Michigan legislature to increase the overall pool of dollars to support these ongoing efforts.

The Michigan tree fruit industry has created this Commission in response to a decline in resources. In the past 10 years, Michigan’s fruit research stations have experienced a nearly 50-percent loss of operating budgets. The Michigan Tree Fruit Commission is an innovative way to support ongoing research and Extension efforts to address inadequate funding that threatens to further regress research station infrastructure.

Michigan is unlike any other fruit growing state, hence growers have relied on information produced by personnel in key MSU fruit positions. A similar but larger assessment program has been established in Washington, and as a result, the Washington apple, cherry and pear programs will become increasingly more competitive in the coming years. The Michigan Tree Fruit Commission will help insure that Michigan growers will also be globally competitive into the future.

The Michigan Tree Fruit Commission is separate from other established assessments for apples, cherries, peaches and plums. These new dollars would not replace the commodity-assessed funds that are used to support current production and promotion research. The Michigan Tree Fruit Commission would assess growers on a sliding scale up to the following recommended maximum rates:

  • Apples: up to $0.04/CWT – $0.0004 per pound
  • Cherries: up to $2.50/TON – $0.00125 per pound
  • Peaches: up to $2.00/TON – $0.001 per pound
  • Plums: up to $4.5/TON – $0.00225 per pound

If the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission is voted in, farms will pay according to yields of the tree fruit crops mentioned above. A board comprised of growers representing all fruit-growing regions of the state will allocate funds based on prioritization of state, regional and local needs that are geared toward supporting infrastructure of fruit research stations, applied research programs and educational programs.

Phil Korson, president of the Cherry Marketing Institute, believes that Michigan tree fruit growers will reap the benefits of this assessment program because funds will be used to directly support research station infrastructure that will contribute to the research and Extension efforts relevant to them.

"The Commission Board will ensure that funds are committed to the highest priorities each season," Korson said. "Funds will improve fruit research station infrastructure as well as their ability to conduct progressive and innovative research and education that is desperately needed at a time when technology is advancing at a remarkable pace.”

The information from the two public hearings will be compiled and given to the Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). Director Clover-Adams will review the comments and decide if the Commission will be brought to a vote in early 2014. Interested parties unable to attend the hearings have until 5 p.m. on Dec. 18 to submit written testimony to Bradley Deacon, MDARD Hearings Officer, P.O. Box 30017, Lansing, MI 48909. Comments may also be submitted to merrilld@michigan.gov or faxed to 517-335-1423.

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