Michigan, New York apple growers hope for state aid

08/23/2012 11:14:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Michigan apple growers hurt by a spring freeze should soon be able to take out low-interest loans under a state government program.

In New York, another hard-hit state, growers are hoping for help from their state legislators through a proposed tax relief bill.

In September, Michigan state legislators could release appropriation funds under a bill passed in June and signed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, said Diane Smith, executive director of the Lansing-based Michigan Apple Committee.

Under the bill, apple growers, shippers, packers and processors affected by the late April freeze, which destroyed an estimated 85% of the state’s apples, could qualify for no-fee loans at a 1% interest rate, Smith said.

The state has allocated $15 million to pay for the program.

“Thankfully, Michigan did something for its growers, and they did it quite quickly,” Smith said.

It’s important, she added, that packers and processors also are eligible for loans under the bill. Unlike grower-shippers, they were not covered by crop insurance.

“Growers need those businesses to be in place next year, when we have a big crop,” Smith said.

In New York, meanwhile, three state assemblymen have called for a special session of the legislature to pass a tax relief bill for the state’s apple growers. New York lost an estimated 52% of its crop due to the April freeze.

As of Aug. 22, a week after the session was proposed, Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association, hadn’t heard of any progress on the proposal.

It would be unusual for the legislature to reconvene for such a purpose, Allen said, but he and growers remained cautiously optimistic.

“We’re hopeful,” he said. “We’ll certainly welcome any support.”



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