Jan 9, 2023
Michigan apple growers to decide future of program

Michigan apple growers will be voting in February on whether to continue the Michigan Apple Advertising and Promotion Program, supported by grower assessments.

The ballots will also include changes to the program, including allowing the Michigan Apple Committee (MAC) board of directors to lower assessments if it chooses. Michigan Apple Committee Executive Director Diane Smith said the committee would not be able to raise the assessment rate, which has been the same since 2003.

Smith discussed the referendum, which occurs every five years, during the MAC’s 19th Annual Growers Luncheon Dec. 6 at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Approving the referendum would allow the committee’s board of directors to lower the current rates, for 100 pounds of apples:

  • Fresh – 45 cents to MAC, 4 cents to research and 2 cents to the U.S. Apple Association, for a total of 51 cents;
  • Processed – 21 cents to MAC, 4 cents to research and 2 cents to USApple, for a total of 27 cents; and
  • Juice – 5 cents to MAC, 4 cents to research and 2 cents to USApple, for a total of 11 cents.

Growers will vote on the assessment renewal from Feb. 13-24, and if it passes, the changes become official on Sept. 1, 2023.

2023 Michigan Apple Queen crowned

Sylvia Freeland, Kent City, Michigan, was crowned the 2023 Michigan Apple Queen during the lunche

Sylvia Freeland, the 2023 Michigan Apple Queen, is crowned by 2022 Michigan Apple Queen Aubrey Rasch as 2022 Court Reaghan Dolphin looks on. Photo: Chris Koger

on. Freeland, daughter of Kirk and Billie Freeland, succeeds 2022 Queen Aubrey Rasch. Freeland attends Kent City High School.

Smith said Michigan apple queens are ambassadors for the state’s apple industry and appear at parades, schools, festivals and grocery store events and more. The queen program is in its 70th year.

Freeland receives scholarships from program sponsor Michigan Apple Committee, the Michigan State Horticultural Society and ChoiceOne Bank.

U.S Apple Association update

Diane Kurrle, senior vice president of the U.S. Apple Association, gave the association’s annual update on national issues facing the apple industry.

Kurrle focused on agriculture labor reform, including changes to the H-2A temporary visa program, which has skyrocketed in use by growers as finding labor has become more difficult in recent years. Smith spoke at the luncheon about a week before ag labor legislation was introduced in the Senate, and about two weeks before both chambers of Congress ended lame-duck sessions without passing the legislation.

During the luncheon, Kurrle said if Congress didn’t pass labor legislation before the end of the session, it’s unlikely the issue will be revisited until Democrats regain a majority in the House and Senate. After the mid-term elections, Kurrle said, House Republican leadership said “they’ll not touch a bill like this while they’re in control” of the chamber.

“I don’t say this with any sort of partisan intent, but that message comes to us from Republican leaders who have been strong supporters, who voted for the bipartisan bill in the House,” Kurrle said during the luncheon.

Kurrle also spoke about the 2023 Farm Bill. USApple is a founding member of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, which advocates for specialty crop programs and funding. She said alliance members have been meeting to set priorities for 2023, when the five-year farm bill update happens. Those priorities will be introduced to the House and Senate agriculture committees in January, she said.

Crop insurance is one farm program that’s been growing in importance, Kurrle said.

“Apples are probably the largest users of crop insurance of any produce commodity, so that’s something that has been important, particularly as the weather events of the past 10 years really made things a lot less predictable,” she said.

Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pennsylvania, will be the ranking Republican on the House Agricultural Committee. Apple industry members met with him in March during a fly-in event.

“He understands apples, so that’s really good news for us,” Kurrle said.

Although partisanship will stall some legislation in 2023, it’s unlikely that will happen to the Farm Bill, Kurrle said.

 “But we’re going to need to do a lot of educating because before the last election, about half of the members on both the House and Senate ag committees, have never been there for a farm bill before,” she said. “And there’s a lot of things that just need to be understood going into a farm bill in terms of why certain programs were created, why nutrition programs are part of the bill.

“I and others will be in D.C. working on behalf of the industry, doing everything we can to ensure those members are educated going into the Farm Bill year.”

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