Ballot for First Annual Peach Assessment in Growers’ Mailboxes

— Written By
Dr. Mike Parker demonstrates pruning peach trees

Dr. Mike Parker, NCSU Tree Fruit Extension Specialist, leads a pruning program

Last April, peach growers from across the state voted to establish an assessment on the state’s peach production. The referendum passed by a 2/3 majority. As a result, commercial growers who meet the Tiered production minimums should pay their assessment by January 31, 2015. North Carolina Department of Agriculture manages commodity assessments for industry associations, and they are assisting with the peach assessment as well. The assessment payment notification was sent out to all known peach growers across the state around December 1, 2014. The annual assessment is based on the grower’s number of trees: Tier 1- 100 to 500 trees: $100; Tier 2- 500 to 2,500 trees: $250; Tier 3- more than 2,500 trees: $350.

Why is it important for peach growers to support the industry through payment of the assessment? According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, fresh peach consumption continues to trend downward. NC Peach growers must support research and development of varieties, rootstocks, and management suited to our climate and clientele in order to move the industry forward and grow the quality product demanded by consumers. The population of North Carolina is expected to grow by 4 million people over the next 10-15 years. This represents potential market expansion. NC peach producers must be able to grow a high quality crop and market it successfully to compete with product from outside of the state.

NC peach growers have a unique “niche” market – a tree ripened, field packed, direct to consumer product known for exceptional flavor and quality. This market niche is different from other big peach growing states: California has a vastly different climate from NC, while Georgia and South Carolina peach industries feature pack houses using mature-picked peaches that are graded and hydro cooled allowing for a longer shelf life and shipping. Many of the most sought after peach varieties – Winblo, Norman, Contender, and Carolina Gold, to name just a few – are North Carolina developed peaches, suited to our climate, customer needs, and production practices. Challenging economic times have reduced funding at the University level, resulting in strategic realignment of resources. The Peach Industry – the growers themselves- must show strong support of research, including financial support, in order to maintain and hopefully increase the research performed on behalf of the peach industry in the state.

The NC Peach Growers’ Association will manage assessment funds. The Society will continue sponsoring the Annual Conference, which brings together the latest in research on orchard management and pest and disease control from NCSU specialists, as well as marketing expertise from NC Department of Agriculture. The Society also sponsors Field Days and hands-on workshops at the Research Station in the Sandhills and the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Center. Additional funds from the assessment will allow the Society to support the continuation of research at the Research Stations. In addition to supporting research and continuing education for growers, assessment funds will also be used to develop valuable marketing materials supported by North Carolina Department of Agriculture for the use of those growers who participate in the assessment, to potentially include advertising support, publications, maps, signs, Web-based information, and more.

The future growth and success of the NC Peach industry relies on grower support of the annual peach assessment. By participating in the assessment, growers are cultivating a strong future for the NC Peach Industry.