Michigan tree fruit growers have voted to establish the Michigan Tree Fruit Research and Development Program, a grower-funded research initiative.
The proposal, which took effect April 1, will support Michigan State University's AgBioResearch fruit research centers, fruit research in general and MSU Extension programs, according to a news release.
Phil Korson, executive director of the DeWitt Township-based Cherry Marketing Institute, helped lead the effort to put the referendum for a grower vote.
" “The establishment of the program is revolutionary in many ways - it’s all about sustainability for the next generation," Korson said in the release. "Funds will improve fruit research station infrastructure as well as the stations’ ability to conduct progressive, innovative research and education that are desperately needed at a time when technology is advancing at a remarkable pace.”
The program will be funded by annual grower assessments. The rates are not to exceed $2.50 per ton of cherries sold, 4 cents per 100 pounds of apples sold, $2 per ton of peaches sold and $4.50 per ton of plums sold.
The nine-member Michigan Tree Fruit Commission, which was also approved when the check-off program was approved and established, will administer the research program. The governor will appoint three members from each of the state's three primary fruit-growing districts. They will serve 3-year terms.
Jim Nugent, retired coordinator of the MSU Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Traverse City, will serve as the board's interim chair.
The referendum was held Feb. 17-28. It required more than 50 percent of the votes cast by producers and more than 50 percent of the total production amount represented on the ballots.
Seventy-two percent of the voters representing 81 percent of production supported the measure.