The U.S. Apple Association says there are more apples out there than the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated on August 12.

USApple added 4.6 million bushels to the USDA number, pushing the national crop size to 263.8 million bushels in its estimate. USDA puts the crop at 259.2 million.

It would be the third largest crop since USDA began keeping records, but still well below the record 1998 crop of 277.3 million bushels.

Last year’s final crop size was 239.2 million bushels, according to USDA.

In its annual meeting in Chicago August 21-22, the U.S. Apple Association gathered industry leaders from across the United States, who met in regional sessions and reacted, state by state, to the numbers USDA had reported.

In the West, they didn’t find much fault with the USDA number from Washington. The crop there is a whopper, another record, 162 million bushels. The Washington industry expects to pack 140 million 40-pound boxes, leaving some 28 million bushels to go into processing or be left in the orchards.

California, plagued by extreme drought, will not quite accomplish the USDA number of 6.2 million bushels, and industry leaders cut its estimate back to 5.9 million.

The Western discussion was led by Dan Kelly of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association.

In the East, discussion was led by John Rice of Rice Fruit in Adams County, Pennsylvania. There was some grumbling about USDA numbers, but in the final figure the Eastern committee added 1.5 million bushels to the USDA number and pegged the Eastern crop at 55.9 million bushels.

Jim Allen, head of the New York Apple Association, said the New York industry production would be about 30 million bushels, up less than 300,000 bushels from the USDA figure.

But Allen found fault with USDA’s final estimate of the 2013 crop, which it estimated at 24.3 million. That is too low, by millions of bushels, he said, and said last year’s crop may have been even bigger, not smaller, than the one that’s coming. USDA did not do an August crop estimate last year—its funds were sequestered—and did a final estimate of the 2013 crop this year.

For marketing reasons, Allen said, it’s important to know that New York is dealing with a crop not much different than last year’s. “We have a vintage crop in the Northeast this year, but we can handle it,” he said. “We have invested in the facilities to do it.”

There are more apples in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New England than USDA reported, the Eastern USApple committee said, but fewer in North Carolina. All told, the USApple estimate added 1.5 million bushels to the USDA estimate for the East, bumping the estimated production to 55.9 million bushels.

In the Midwest, where Michigan is the dominant producer, the committee chaired by BelleHarvest Sales President Mike Rothwell, Belding, Michigan, found the USDA estimate for Michigan low by 2.5 million bushels and pushed it up to 28.7 million. This is the first back-to-back normal crop for Michigan since 2006-07, he said, where every-other-year freezes caused see-saw production and marketing problems for a would-be reliable supplier.
In Ohio, where USDA found 1.2 million bushels for its estimate, the USApple committee found 1.7 million, and production in Indiana will be larger than USDA estimates as well, it said.

According to the estimates, the Western crop, at 174.3 million bushels, would be 13 percent larger than last year’s and 18 percent bigger than the five-year average. The Eastern crop, at 55.9 million, would be 10 percent bigger than last year’s and 5 percent above the five-year average. The Midwestern crop, using USApple numbers, is 10 percent smaller than last year’s and 36 percent larger than the five-year average (which include two poor years in Michigan).

Nationally, the apple crop will be up 8 percent over last year, using the USDA number, and 15 percent over the five-year average. Using USApple numbers, the comparable figures are 10 and 17 percent larger.