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Flathead cherries

Rainier cherries fill bins at the Glacier Fresh Orchards packing plant on Flathead Lake.

KALISPELL — Montana cherry growers have voted to end a "checkoff" based on sales that funded research and development programs over the last dozen years.

Bruce Johnson, president of the Flathead Lake Cherry Growers cooperative, tells the Flathead Beacon that the co-op paid about 80 percent of the checkoff dollars, but occasionally its priorities — like managing fruit flies — were put on the back burner.

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In a recent mail ballot, the growers voted 52-17 to end the checkoff. By law, any remaining checkoff funds will revert to the state's general fund.

Johnson says work funded by the checkoff will continue, but the co-op will oversee the efforts rather than going through the Department of Agriculture and a five-person research and development committee. He says the move will help simplify the process.

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