Jun 28, 2012Michigan apple crop suffers significant losses
The Michigan apple industry suffered huge crop losses stemming from historic weather events in late winter and spring, the Michigan Apple Committee announced today. An early heat wave followed by a cold, frost-filled spring resulted in the largest apple crop loss since the 1940s. Growers, shippers, and other experts from across the state predict a crop size of about 3 million bushels, a significant loss compared to the average crop size of 20-23 million bushels.
In May, Governor Rick Snyder officially requested disaster assistance for Michigan’s fruit growers from the United States Department of Agriculture. In addition, on June 26 he signed a bill supporting a low-interest loan program for farmers whose crops have been lost.
“This is the worst natural disaster to strike Michigan’s agricultural industry in more than 50 years,” Snyder said. “Agriculture is a key component of our economy, and these loans will help keep our fruit farmers afloat until next season.”
Annually, the apple industry contributes $700 – $900 million to the state’s economy. However the complete financial implications will be hard to measure.
“From the growers to the shippers, retailers, laborers and consumers, the effect of this year’s crop loss will be widespread,” said Diane Smith, interim executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee. “No one can put a full value on the loss at this point – it will have an impact on Michigan’s entire agriculture industry and beyond. Our job is to support Michigan’s apple growers and the apple industry as they move forward through this difficult season.”
Some areas of the state were hit harder than others, and in some cases growers suffered more loss than neighboring farms.
“The impact of these rare weather conditions was ‘hit-or-miss’ in many cases,” said Smith. “We have heard reports of some growers with nearly a full crop of apples, and some who have nothing.”
The historic heat wave Michigan experienced in March brought apple blossoms out early. When the weather cooled back down and orchards experienced frosts and freezes, growers and industry experts knew they were in for a difficult season.
“This spring, farmers used frost fans, orchard heaters and helicopters to battle the extreme weather conditions’ affect on the orchards. While the efforts may have saved some of the crop, we are hearing about significant loss from most areas of the state,” said Scott Lewis, chair of the Michigan Apple Committee and a New Era, Michigan apple grower.
While significant crop loss has been predicted for a few months, it wasn’t until trees started to produce fruit, followed by the natural thinning phenomenon known as “June drop” that allowed growers, shippers and other industry officials to make accurate predictions about the crop size.
“It was important to collect data and anecdotal information from growers, shippers, horticulturists and other experts from around the state, so we could provide the most accurate prediction,” said Smith.
As the marketing board for Michigan apples, the Michigan Apple Committee will continue its work to promote, educate and conduct research about Michigan apples.
“Though the crop will be small, our Michigan Apple Committee will continue to communicate with consumers about Michigan apples and buying local. In addition, we will do everything we can to help growers through this difficult season while looking ahead to 2013,” said Lewis.
The Michigan Apple Committee is a grower-funded, nonprofit organization devoted to promotion, education and research activities to distinguish the Michigan apple and encourage its consumption in Michigan and around the world. For more information, visit MichiganApples.com.