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It has never been more important that our U.S. apple industry have strong representation in both Washington State and Washington, D.C., where both domestic and international apple issues must be presented in perfect harmony.

Our industry has had the foresight to recognize issues and identify problems with one voice, with one position, and with one organization that will best serve apple growers from east to west. The U.S. Apple Association is that voice, and yes, it must go from east to west, and most importantly, it must go through Washington State. If the U.S. apple voice is to be heard in Washington, D.C., it must clearly be talking for the entire industry, with no exceptions.

As Washington growers cast their votes this month regarding the assessment rates collected by the Washington Apple Commission, and how they may be spent, I urge all growers to look at the big picture and to make the choice to fully support USApple.

I cannot begin to list all the reasons why your support is vital for our industry, but I can give you a short list: 29 vs. 9 comes to mind! No, that is not a recent Cougar/Husky football score; it is the number of House of Representative votes New York has compared with Washington State. No offense—you may have the acreage, but we have the votes, and when issues arise that affect us all, votes count. Of course, we are equal in the Senate, although one of our senators is looking to change her address in 2009, and we have a leading contender on the other side as well. Politically speaking, New York does have some valuable assets to share with our apple growing partners. To add to the package, California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia bring enormous strength to the political table.

If we take a minute to think about the issues that have been given top priority over just the past two or three years, which have such huge implications for apple growers in any state, we can easily see the need for a strong, national organization such as USApple. We also must recognize what makes USApple strong and effective. Our strength is our staff, which is qualified, experienced, and very effective. In order to be as good as they are, they must have the support and the respect of the industry. In order for USApple to be the proper apple ambassador and earn the respect of lawmakers and government, it must be the best, and in Washington, D.C., the best comes with a price.

A few years ago, our industry was struggling with similar problems—how to adequately support and fund a strong, national apple association and how to make sure all states supported the good of the cause on an equal, prorated basis.

Although the main issue is the same (how to get more money out of the industry), there are some major and noticeable changes in the industry today compared to then. We had plenty of labor then, we were overproducing, prices were in the cellar, exports were hurt by a strong dollar, we were in the middle of an antidumping suit against China, environmentalists were attempting to resurrect the Alar scare, and Apple Market Loss Assistance Program payments were helping some growers stay off the auction block. Today, the industry is in a much better position to support increased payments.

Looking ahead, the labor issue could be the largest hurdle yet for us to leap, and working together with one voice is the only way to make that jump. Our eastern problems are your western problems, and only with a strong, unified approach can we be heard in Washington, D.C.

As president of the New York Apple Association, I urge our friends in Washington State to be positive in your vote to support the U.S. Apple Association to your fullest ability. As apple-growing regions, we may meet you in the marketplace and will respect you as our competitor, but in the larger scheme, we look to you as colleagues and want your support to fight these issues that are bigger than both of us.