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Greetings from New York State. I have been AWOL for a while, caught up in local issues that continue to be troublesome. For those who know me, you will realize that I am New York through and though, but these days, New York Blue seems to fit better.

We continue to struggle with our lame-duck administration and an incomplete state budget that is 112 days late. Leadership in Albany is also AWOL. On top of that, on the apple front, different challenges continue to pop up on a regular basis. The good news is that our crop looks good. We are not breaking limbs, despite plenty of rain and heat. We will likely be less than last year’s 32.8 million bushel crop, but hitting our 5-year average is probable.

Since I am talking about last year’s numbers, let me share the most recent USDA data as far as how the New York crop is utilized each year. Since the East talks total bushels, while the West talks packed boxes, let me clarify the 2009 crop. 16.30 million bushels (42lb) went to processing, while 16.07 million bushels went into the fresh market. As close to 50-50 as possible.

Just a few side notes to consider. Included in the 16.3 processing number are all fresh cut apples, even if they are packed in cartons and sent to the slicer, applesauce, cider and juice. The fresh number is all the apples that are left, including the pick-your-own operations, orchard markets, green markets, farmers markets, and finally all commercially packed apples for domestic and export. Because of fuzzy math, coming up with an accurate number to separate out those fresh categories is difficult, no it is impossible! I can say this that because of our proximity to three quarters of the U.S. population, direct sales of apples is increasing each year. That is good, because our production is also rapidly increasing.

Now the bad news. Having a normal- to above-normal-sized crop this year may end up being a problem. Our largest single buyer of New York State apples for processing is entering the seventh week of a labor strike. Dr. Pepper-Snapple which operates the Motts plant in Williamson, NY, is at an impasse with its workers. Production is way behind schedule, and the fear of not being able to run at full capacity next month is most alarming to our industry. Although it is not the growers who are to blame, they are carrying the greatest amount of risk this fall. No plant, no market. A half of plant means fewer purchases. The plant processes over 7-million bushel a year. Just to complete the loop back to New York-New York, I have yet to receive my New York State tax refund of $36.89!