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Red Delicious apples harvested at Zirkle's ranch in Mattawa Washington on September 29, 2016. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

A bin of Red Delicious harvested in 2016 in Mattawa, Washington. The U.S. government has agreed to purchase up to $93.4 million in apples as part of a program affecting food “unfairly targeted by unjustified retaliation” in ongoing tariff disputes. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower file photo)

The federal government on Monday announced it will include tree fruits on a list of commodities it will purchase as part of a relief package for growers harmed by international trade disputes.

The Food Purchase and Distribution Program will buy up to $1.2 billion in food products “unfairly targeted by unjustified retaliation” in President Donald Trump’s tariff disputes with nations such as China, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The federal government will distribute the products through nutrition assistance and child nutrition programs.

The program has promised up to $93.4 million to purchase apples, $18.7 for plums and prunes, $1.7 million for blueberries, $1.4 million for pears and $200,000 for apricots.

Meanwhile, Department of Agriculture officials have $111.5 million set aside to help out the sweet cherry industry but have not determined what form that will take, said Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, a Yakima, Washington, group that represents tree fruit growers. Sweet cherry season is over and very few sweet cherries are canned or otherwise processed.

“They’re trying to sort that out,” Powers said.

Monday’s dollar-value announcement will make it easier if sales desks and packing companies decide whether to apply for registration as a U.S. Department of Agriculture vendor, Powers said.

Meanwhile, the government has set aside $200 million to help develop new foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products under the department’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Formal rules for using the two programs have not been released yet, Powers said.

For more information, read the Department of Agriculture’s news release.

—by Ross Courtney