( File photo )

Apple grower-shippers in Pennsylvania are venturing into a new marketing realm this season, having voted to replace the old Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program with a new Pennsylvania Apple Program.

Growers voted last fall to shut down the marketing program. Then, in April, 68% of eligible growers — representing 78% of production in the U.S.’ fourth-largest apple-growing state — voted to start a replacement program.

The new program started May 27.

Under the new program, growers are assessed 5 cents per bushel for fresh apples and 1 cent per bushel for processed apples, generating an annual budget estimated at $200,000 to $250,000.

Use of resources will be limited to funding membership in the U.S. Apple Association; research; consumer education and necessary administrative costs.

Unlike the original program, the new program does not provide funding for marketing activities.

The new program has no staff and is guided by a seven-member board, including representation from Pennsylvania agriculture secretary Russell Redding’s office. “This will allow us to continue funding research programs vital to the long-term growth of our industry and to maintain membership in the U.S. Apple Association, which provides legislative and communications support for the nation’s apple growers,” marketing program chairman Ed Weaver said in the release.

While there was support for some of the marketing program’s functions in the industry, there was a feeling that changes in the retail environment affected its effectiveness as a marketing unit, said Brenda Briggs, vice president of sales and marketing with Gardners, Pa.-based Rice Fruit Co.