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 COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Ohio's vegetable and small fruit producers will have the opportunity to vote on a new and innovative research program February 2, 3 and 4. The proposed program is a bold attempt by industry leadership to raise a modest $75,000 to $100,000 and leverage it with other public and private resources to fund vegetable and small fruit research needed by Ohio growers.
 The proposal is different than other commodity checkoff programs in that its purpose is research and development, not promotion. According to vegetable grower Wayne Wickerham of Huntsville, Ohio, "We couldn't hope to promote the over 30 vegetable and small fruit crops produced in Ohio, but by leveraging a reasonable grower investment we can significantly impact our industry research needs. With $75,000 to $100,000 in grower dollars, we hope to direct $200,000 to $300,000 of needed research each year, which is what we need to keep us competitive and strong," he said.
 The proposal is an attempt by industry leaders to formalize a voluntarily funded research program started in 1985. The successful Fresh Market and Processing Vegetable Research Foundation has been raising $15,000 to $20,000 annually. Last year the Foundation provided partial funding for 14 research projects. The proposed program would maintain the characteristics of the voluntary program with its right to refund provision.
 According to OVPGA and OFGS Executive Director, Mike Pullins, "OFGS and OVPGA grower committees have been working for three years to design a workable program that is acceptable to all growers." Pullins believes that public research dollars in the future will go to industries willing to put up seed money or matching dollars. When growers can pay the incidental costs of the research (seed, chemicals, plants, harvesting, etc.) institutions and the public are more willing to commit the time of the researcher and facilities and equipment. Grower dollars validate the need for the research and insure the results will be disseminated and utilized.
 Grower voting on the referendum will take place February 2, 3, and 4 during the Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers Congress at Toledo. Additional voting locations will be at the Ohio Department of Agriculture in Columbus, plus the OARDC offices at Wooster. Mail balloting will also be available. Growers will be notified by mail and industry publications prior to the vote. A temporary committee, representing all segments of the small fruit and vegetable industry, has been appointed. They include:
 John Graf, Copley; Wayne Wickerham, Huntsville; Bruce Buurma, Willard; Richard Ross, Columbia Station; Dave Maurer, Wooster; Brent Rhoads, Circleville; Jim Boose, Milan; Todd Michael, Urbana; Jan Lukens, Hartville; Dale Stokes, Wilmington; Dick Scaife, Tiffin; Bob Sage, Chardon; Brian Bachman, Carroll; Ron Wyss, Ada; Tom Sachs, Fremont; Charles Jones, Fremont; Tom Baughman, Napoleon; Daryl Knipp, Oak Harbor; Jim Klickman, Elmore; and Louis Huck, Marietta.
 A recent meeting of the committee formulated plans for the referendum and approved a final draft of the proposed program. In order to facilitate understanding and approval of the program, the following question and answer format has been developed. For a copy of the proposal and any other questions, call the Executive Director's office, OVPGA-OFGS, Two Nationwide Plaza, Columbus, Ohio 43215, phone 614-249-2424.
 1. Who is subject to the proposed assessment? Producers of vegetable and small fruit crops. Specifically fruits and products from brambles, blueberries, strawberries, etc., fresh and processed vegetables (such as sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, asparagus, lettuce herbs, spinach, and radishes, etc.), cole crops and products (such as cabbage, broccoli, collard, etc.), root plants and products (such as potatoes, turnips, carrots, beets, etc.), vine crops and products (such as pumpkins, squash, gourds, melons, etc.), and other similar fruits and vegetables as determined by the director. Excluded from this program are all tree fruits (such as apples, cherries, pears, peaches, etc.), and tomatoes, sugar beets, and grapes sold for processing. Many of the excluded crops already have formal or voluntary checkoff programs.
 2. Who will collect and allocate the funds? Funds will be collected by the program's grower board with oversight by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Funds will be collected from an assessment reporting form sent by the board to producers of record. The producer shall complete the form, reporting the acreage of each small fruit and vegetable crop and the total acreage of such crops, and make payment before December 31 of each year. Failure to receive a remittance form will not excuse payment. If a producer fails to remit on or before the due date, the right of refund is forfeited.
 3. How will the funds collected be utilized to benefit growers? By funding crop research to assist producers in developing new varieties, new cultural practices and other activities that will enhance the profitability of small fruit and vegetable crops. The 30-plus crops subject to the program generate hundreds of millions of dollars in value to Ohio's economy, but individually the acres and farmgate value of these crops are relatively small. Grower dollars are needed to continue to attract public research funding. Modest grower dollars validate the importance of the industry and grower commitment to research. Modest grower dollars can also significantly impact the direction of industry research toward the problems of greatest importance to Ohio growers.
 4. How much will it cost me? Producers of small fruits and vegetables are subject to an assessment of 3/4 of one percent of the value of these commodities sold/marketed, not to exceed $50 on production units of 3 to 15 acres, nor more than $3 per acre for production units greater than 15 acres. It is believed that the effective cost to most growers will be the $3 per acre. Producers with less than 3 acres are not required to report but can make a voluntary contribution.
 5. Can I request a refund? Producers are entitled to a refund of all or part of the assessment within 30 days of payment provided the refund request is made within 30 days of payment. In effect, growers will have the opportunity to vote on the program each year by deciding whether or not to request a refund. This insures the program and its board is accountable to growers. Producers who fail to submit a valid refund request within 30 days of the assessment are not entitled to a refund. Forms to apply for a refund will be available from the offices of ODA or Small Fruit and Vegetable R & D Program board.
 6. Who will conduct the approved research? Any agency approved by the grower board can conduct research. In most cases this will be The Ohio State University College of Agriculture or another land grant college or university research center.
 7. What assurances are there that my crops will receive their fair share of funding from the dollars contributed? Program language requires that the 12 member board equitably represent all sectors of the horticultural industry subject to the assessment. In addition the assessment reports will contain a section asking producers for their priorities in research needs or recommendations for needed industry research. These recommendations will then be taken into consideration when the board determines allocations for needed research.
 8. How will research results be made available to growers? Many if not most of the same channels that are presently used will be continued. Researchers will publish their conclusions in various journals. OARDC and OCES publications will continue to carry articles outlining the research and staff members will meet with growers at various regional meetings. The annual Growers Congress will highlight the results of funded research. General publications such as the "Great Lakes Fruit & Vegetables Grower," "Today's Grower," "American Vegetable & Fruit Grower," will continue to provide necessary information. The temporary committee has also recommended establishment of a system whereby growers can request research results on their particular crop(s).
 9. Why should growers have to pay for research? There is direct economic benefit to growers when research enables them to become more productive and efficient. The research that is contemplated is production research which will directly benefit growers. While the major portion of our research needs will continue to be publicly funded, grower dollars are needed to leverage and direct these public funds. Much of the publicly funded research is basic. Additional money is needed to fund the applied research needed to utilize this new knowledge in the growers' fields. Many times public research personnel and funds are available to industries willing to provide modest funding. Grower dollars can be effectively leveraged to address grower research needs. Dollars from Ohio growers can also insure that our Ohio production problems are addressed.
 10. Who is eligible to vote? Producers of three or more acres of the designated vegetable and small fruit crops. Under Ohio law corporations and partnerships are entitled to one vote. In the case of sole proprietorships, both husband and wife are eligible to vote.
 -0- 1/14/93
 /CONTACT: Mike Pullins of the Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers, 614-249-2424/

CO: Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers ST: Ohio IN: SU:

BM -- CL015 -- 5116 01/14/93 18:07 EST
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