(CORRECTED) Apple growers took their concerns about labor, immigration, NAFTA, farm bill programs and other issues to Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Apple Association’s annual Congressional Fly-In.
More than 90 growers participated in the March 15 event, meeting with more than 100 lawmakers or their staff, according to a news release.
The main issue was lack of labor, which is costing the U.S. economy $3.1 billion, according to the apple association, when considering the inability to increase production because of fewer harvesters.
“Family apple growers around the country leave $100,000 worth of apples or more on their trees to rot, because they can’t get enough workers to harvest them,” U.S. Apple Association President Jim Bair said in the release. “Labor-intensive agriculture like apples desperately needs a legal, reliable and stable workforce.”
The association credits NAFTA with helping exporters quadruple exports to Mexico and double exports to Canada, for a combined $430 million in annual sales. The countries take 46% of all U.S. apple exports, according to the release.
“It is a critical time in the apple industry as growers continue to work toward solutions on trade, labor reform, ever-increasing regulations and production costs,” Bair said in the release. “It is critical their voices are heard in Washington on issues that impact their businesses, their communities and the nation’s food supply.
Note on correction: A quote by Jim Bair on not having enough workers during harvest was incorrect in the original article.