It is a remarkable act of foresight, especially for those surrounded by economic suffering and uncertainty. Washington’s apple and pear growers have voted to double their support for university research. The self-imposed assessment, really a kind of research payroll tax, will provide $27 million for Washington State University over eight years. It will endow science at the university’s Wenatchee and Prosser experiment stations and orchards. The grant is enough to support programs by interest alone, meaning in perpetuity, and could keep 100 employees at work on ways to make more and better food for less.
This is not small matter. Such large private industry donations for public research are rare. The fruit growers’ gift to WSU is the largest ever. It surpasses donations by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and everyone else. “We will multiply these funds in so many ways,” said WSU President Elson Floyd, most likely enjoying a break from his usual glum budget cutting.