(April 8) WENATCHEE, Wash.— Continuing to cut its industry financial ties, the cash strapped Washington Apple Commission has sent Northwest tree fruit industry trade groups scrambling to find alternate funding.

On April 15, board members of the Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima, will discuss ways to offset the commission’s 75% cut in funds. The apple commission also stopped funding the Wenatchee-based Washington State Horticultural Association.

Horticultural council president Chris Schlect said the organization that works on national and international trade and export issues for Washington, Oregon and Idaho apple, cherry and pear grower-shippers is intensively searching for replacement funding.

“We’re not in a crisis situation this day or week,” he said.

The apple commission, which had been responsible for more than half of the council’s $956,000 budget, paid its member dues through fiscal 2004, which ends June 30.

The council has sufficient reserves to operate through then, Schlect said. If other funds aren’t secured from the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association and the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association, Schlect said the council will have to cut its programs.

Manager Dave Carlson said the apple commission’s priority is funding the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service’s market access program and the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association.

He said board members have been working with Wenatchee Valley Traffic and Yakima shippers to convince them to fund the horticultural council.

On March 15, Wenatchee Traffic passed a resolution that it would fund the council in conjunction with the Yakima Shippers. The action, Carlson said, is contingent upon the commission fully funding U.S. Apple at $826,000.

Carlson said industry members from the commission, Wenatchee Traffic and Yakima Shippers were trying to keep the commission, and the horticultural council and association properly funded.

The commission supports the Market Access Program with $1.2 million a year.

Despite the cut, the horticultural association, which lobbies Washington state lawmakers on behalf of the tree fruit industry, remains financially strong because the commission’s one-time $200,000 funding in 2002 supported only special projects, said James Hazen, the association’s executive director.

“It’s up to us to go out and show the industry that there’s a value in these particular programs which would allow us to fund them in the future,” he said.

Before the recent vote to cut funding entirely, in December, the apple commission voted to trim its contribution to the horticultural association to $140,000. For the next fiscal year, the commission is funding the horticultural council with $118,000, a $363,000 cut.

Since dues-paying organizations such as the apple commission supported the council’s staff, Schlect said the councilwould likely have to cut its 4-person staff to save money.