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USApple Board Meets with Agriculture Secretary to Discuss Trade, Ag Labor

Washington, D.C. (March 19, 2024) —The U.S. Apple Association’s Board of Directors met this morning with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, and key members of his senior leadership team at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Discussion of market access, agriculture labor, and renewal of the farm bill were on the agenda.

“The USApple directors were anxious to thank Secretary Vilsack and his team for their hard work on our behalf,” said Steve Clement, CEO of PNW Tree Fruit and Chair of USApple’s Board of Directors. “That includes helping us regain a market presence in India – previously our second largest export market – and purchasing a significant volume of apples for community food banks and other destinations. Leveraging that surplus to help feed Americans is a win-win. We also took the opportunity to share how desperate apple growers are for agricultural labor reform. The rapidly increasing cost of farm labor is untenable and threatening the future of multi-generational family orchards across the country. The discussion was open, specific, and productive.”

Others participants in the meeting included:

  • Alexis Taylor, Under Secretary for International Trade
  • Jenny Lester Moffitt, Under Secretary for Marketing & Regulatory Programs
  • Silvia Fabela, Secretary Vilsack’s Senior Advisor for ag labor

The U.S. apple industry impacts 150,000 jobs and is responsible for more than $23 billion in economic output. Historically, the U.S. has exported one third of its apple crop, however, exports are at their lowest level in a decade.

In addition to seeking Secretary Vilsack’s help with market access and agricultural adjustment purchases, the USApple board asked for assistance in fixing agriculture labor policy.

“The majority of apple growers are now in the H-2A program and experiencing spiraling costs and untenable regulations,” said Jim Bair, President and CEO of USApple. “Making matters worse, there are new proposed regulatory changes that would add further burden and expense. Our Board did a great job advocating for USDA to work with its agency partners to reform agriculture labor in a meaningful way. We need a stable, adequate, and predictable workforce for apple growers.”

The group also discussed the importance of the farm bill and its renewal this year. Getting additional Market Access Program funding for specialty crops is critical, as well as maintaining funding for research and other Agriculture Department programs that directly impact the industry.

Members of the Board finished the day on Capitol Hill educating legislators about these same issues, as part of USApple’s annual Fly-In.

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