Advocating for Apples
The apple industry is facing some of the greatest challenges it has ever faced. While lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are considering policies that will have long-term effects on business, apples face stiff competition in the supermarket as consumers have more food choices than ever. Never has it been more imperative that the industry continue to produce a superior product and educate both policymakers and consumers on apples. The U.S. Apple Association is focused on advocating for the industry on national issues and educating the public on apple attributes to promote apples and apple products.
One of the most important factors in determining the future of the apple industry is the issue of adequate labor. Everyone in the industry is acutely aware of the need for labor reform. This has been—and will continue to be—USApple's top legislative priority. The association staff has worked both alone and with other agricultural organizations to make the case to Congress that reforms, such as those in the AgJobs bill, cannot wait any longer. The AgJobs provisions were included in the Senate's comprehensive bill, and now the industry is working hard to enact it on its own. In the meantime, USApple is also seeking short-term improvements to the current H-2A agricultural guest-worker --program so that it is a steady and reliable source of labor.
Additionally, the 2007 Farm Bill remains a crucial issue because it will dictate farm policies for the next five to seven years. Though specialty crops like apples have not traditionally benefited from the Farm Bill, USApple and other specialty crop groups have been advocating for change. Over the past two years, the association has worked to help --create and drive a new Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance that achieved introduction of specialty crop legislation, much of which was just adopted by the House. The House bill emphasizes long-term competitiveness and sustainability of apple production rather than direct government subsidy payments to farmers. For the first time, it includes over $1.6 billion over five years in funding for research, nutrition, and marketing programs. The Senate now faces the task of passing a good bill that will ultimately gain the president's signature and be signed into law. At each step, we face intense debate over funding, but we are determined to see our industry's interests represented.
Food safety is another area of importance for our industry and a high priority for USApple. As the voice of apples on Capitol Hill, USApple will continue to support only sound science- and risk-based food-safety practices as Congress moves to mandate standards that include good agricultural, handling, and manufacturing practices. The association is also working to preserve the use of safe and effective crop protection tools, as well as monitor and represent the industry's interests in biotechnology.
While USApple is a strong advocate for apple interests on these issues, our industry's constant challenge to grow underscores the need to boost domestic apple consumption by driving home consumer-focused, apple health and nutrition messages. The foundation of our consumer outreach lies in apple health research. For several years, USApple and the Apple Products Research and Education Council have worked together to fund and publicize scientific studies performed by leading researchers in the field. Positive research findings have linked apples to brain and lung health, and to reduced incidence of heart disease, cancer, and even childhood asthma. The emergence of such scientific data has put apples at the top of the list of foods that play a powerful role in preventative health and well-being.
USApple has used this research in its consumer education program, reaching millions of people to promote the enjoyment of apples and the many health benefits. Staff has worked with major women's and health magazine editors and resulting articles have appeared in Health, Family Circle, Martha Stewart Living, Woman's World, Real Simple, Self, Cooking Light, and Shape among others. Most recently, prominent articles about apples and apple juice appeared in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today Weekend. USApple's efforts resulted in more than 665 million consumer impressions last year, and the year ahead looks promising.
As a national trade association representing all segments of the U.S. apple industry, including growers, packers, shippers, marketers, and processors, USApple is committed to being the national voice for apples on Capitol Hill, at the White House, and to millions of consumers. For more information about USApple and our activities, please contact us by phone at (703) 442-8850, or visit the USApple Web site at www.usapple.org.