Following a shaky year, including COVID-19 market losses, the apple industry is cautiously optimistic, said U.S. Apple Association President and CEO Jim Bair at the industry’s 125th Annual Crop and Outlook Marketing Conference. The virtual two-day meeting showcased growers, apple business leaders, and diverse speakers and topics, including Bair’s State of the Industry address.
“The apple industry faced many challenges this past year, but rose to meet every one of them,” said Bair. “Growers and apple businesses weathered the confluence of a perfect storm this past year and came out the other side, which is a testament to our members.”
During the past year, USApple members fought hard for and won legislative successes on USApple’s top policy priorities, including passage and ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the U.S-China trade deal and labor reform in the House of Representatives. Further, after more than a year of trade tensions, apple exports are moving up again.
Within the past several months, USApple and its leaders again sprang into action to appeal an initial Agriculture Department decision to not include apple growers in relief CARES Act funding.
“We put together sales data on more than 43 million boxes of apples between January 15 and April 15 and proved beyond a doubt that apples had experienced drastic price declines due to COVID-19,” said Bair. “USDA relented and announced that apple growers are now eligible.” Bair also reminded growers that the deadline to apply for relief funding is September 11.
Speaking of COVID-19, Bair acknowledged it had been a touch-and-go situation for many growers and apple businesses when the pandemic began.
“We had never witnessed a situation of this scale and magnitude,” Bair told growers. “But with quick thinking, you added critical safety measures to keep employees safe and maintain the apple supply to groceries and food banks. What could have been catastrophic for the industry, instead showed what we’re made of. The industry has become nimbler and more adaptable for what the future holds.”
Other speakers at the Outlook conference included Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Representative Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas, Futurity CEO Jack Bobo and NPD Group Food and Beverage Analyst Darren Seifer.