IMPACT is a separate administrative unit of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at WSU (Fig. 1) in Pullman, Washington (affiliated scientists are also located at other sites in the state, and over-seas in export markets), and is devoted to studies that ultimately assist in the export marketing of agricultural commodities (Day 1985; Steury 1990; Tacoma 1987; USDA 1990). IMPACT is also responsible for assembling, analyzing, and disseminating relevant market information to producers, producer associations, commodity commissions, processors, packers, shippers, brokers, transporters, financiers, and other agencies engaged in the marketing of Washington State's agricultural products.
IMPACT supports teams of scientists to address problems in the export marketing of agricultural products. This approach utilizes WSU's collective knowledge and capacity for research and extension. IMPACT's guidance and funding allow university scientists to concentrate on problems without being subject to short-term time and profit constraints faced by individual firms. Thus, the IMPACT Center has become a hub for innovative scientific research and information that promotes Washington State's agricultural exports. This comprehensive and systematic approach is not available to the state's agricultural industry from any other source.
Washington's legislature intended for the IMPACT Center to be problem oriented and able to rapidly respond to issues arising in international markets. However, in order to solve such problems, some fundamental or basic research has been required before applying the solution or application. IMPACT has attempted to keep a balance by funding projects that provide rapid results as the state legislature envisioned and those projects requiring longer research periods which may eventually yield greater net benefits to the state.
IMPACT uses federal and state funds to support research on a range of large and small commodities and new products. Federal grants and private contributions are occasionally obtained for specific projects which are not funded by IMPACT.
Commodity Commissions and the USDA/ARS support research on large scale crops. IMPACT balances these activities and projects by funding research on smaller crops. Alternative crops research is also financed by state and federal funds. Maintaining a balance between the international competitiveness of Washington State's large exporters and developing new products for market niches is a goal of IMPACT. Less-established and alternative crop groups must rely heavily on state and federal funding, and cooperation and financial support from foreign market representatives.
Since IMPACT's establishment in 1985, studies funded through IMPACT have revealed information that has increased our understanding of world markets (Cook and Kullberg 1986; McClary et al. 1989), changing consumer tastes in Japan (Jussaume 1989), Asian quality preferences, and improved marketing strategies. Information collected and generated by the IMPACT center enhances agricultural market opportunities for Washington, as well as reducing risks for certain agricultural products in a rapidly diversifying and integrated international market. IMPACT's challenges can be illustrated by it's effort to develop new products to meet opportunities arising from access to the world's consumers. Many opportunities exist for research and development of new specialized agricultural products, and major priority is given to new products and processes that are likely to generate additional exports. Japanese markets exist for products such as wagyu beef, chicory for artificial sugar production (Dean 1990), edamame vegetable soybeans, and azuki beans. These commodities are currently being tested at WSU for marketing in Asia and in the United States. Development of these commodities requires specialized expertise in agricultural, social and cultural aspects of international trade in addition to agroeconomic knowledge.
Previous efforts to commercialize many alternative crops have failed for a number of reasons. In 1987, the IMPACT Center organized a conference, to examine previous attempts at developing alternative crops in Washington State over the previous fifty years. Conclusions from the conference indicated that most efforts failed because of a lack of an integrated effort. In some cases crops failed because of inadequate processing facilities. In other cases crops failed because a market did not exist, or from the unwillingness of growers to commit the needed hectarage. Many potential crops, such as sunflower, failed because they could not yield profitably under local conditions. A major exception in the last fifty years has been the Washington wine industry, which after thirty years of ineffective growth, put together an integrated effort combining research, extension, government regulation and industry support to achieve the development of a successful industry.
The three part approach of the East Asian Crop Development Program is: (1) identification of East Asian alternative crops for the domestic and export market; (2) comprehensive coordination of efforts to commercialize these alternative crops from the planting of its seed to final consumption; and (3) formulation of a generalized model for development and commercialization of alternative crops.
This generalized approach has numerous sequential but overlapping stages. The early stages involve studying the import statistics of targeted countries. A list of imported agronomic commodities is developed and a cursory analysis is made for their potential production in the state based on environmental considerations. Next, sample cultivars of potential crops are located, grown in an East Asian observation garden, and a simple review of Washington State, national, and international research publications is undertaken. If a new crop grows well in the garden, simple yield plots are established and basic production, processing and marketing requirements are established. When yield is found to be reasonable and constraints not prohibitive, a graduate student is assigned to the crop. Next, an exhaustive effort is made to select cultivars, collect research literature, and identify cooperating producers, processors, marketers, and a multi-disciplinary research team. At this stage, the graduate student, cooperators, and the research team undergo an intensive process of education on all aspects of the crop via literature review, observation plot results, test processing, and visits to the Asian market. In addition, the graduate student is placed on the farm of an Asian producer for the growing season and/or at an Asian university or research institute that studies the crop. As a prerequisite, graduate students are selected for interest in Asia and trained in an Asian language and culture. These students tend to be highly motivated older students. As graduates, they are viewed as a form of technology transfer from the program to the state's agricultural industry.
At any stage in this process, efforts on a selected crop can be terminated if commercial production seems impossible or requiring an excessive investment in time or research support. If the crop shows promise, a package of management practices is established, an internal bulletin of production guidelines is prepared and training workshops are provided to producers. Also, foreign importers are provided samples of various cultivars for quality and taste testing. The research team is provided feed-back from producers, test trials and importers, and sub-groups are assigned to overcome identified constraining factors. If the team and cooperators feel comfortable with agronomic progress, preliminary studies on processing are undertaken. Since the ultimate goal of the IMPACT center is to generate revenue in the State and create jobs, adding value through processing is a high priority. Concurrent with processing efforts, breeding, commercial scale-up and test marketing are undertaken.
The East Asian Crop Development program is involved in the coordination of research and marketing activities, in addition to education and promotion. At the point of commercialization, the director must occasionally convene and mediate negotiations between cooperating producers, processors, and importers on prices and responsibilities. An understanding of cultural and political sensitivities is crucial at this stage. Once full commercialization occurs, a commodity commission can be established to takeover many of IMPACTS' responsibilities for further development of the crop.
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Fig. 1. Flow chart of financial or legal authority and advisory relationships for the IMPACT Center and the East Asian Crop Development Program.