Apple growers visit Washington to talk trade, ag labor

PRESS RELEASE Washington, D.C. (March 13, 2019)—More than 90 apple growers from across the nation met March 13 in Washington, D.C., to take part in the U.S. Apple Association’s (USApple) annual Capitol Hill Day. Meeting with more than 100 legislative offices during the fly-in, they expressed their support and concerns for priority issues like ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, agriculture labor and implementation of the farm bill.

USApple is urging Congress to quickly ratify the USMCA. As with its predecessor, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the USMCA maintains duty-free access for apple growers, as well as other key protections for the industry. Prior to NAFTA, Mexico imposed a 20 percent tariff on U.S. apples. With duty-free access, Mexico is now the apple industry’s largest export market followed by Canada. Since the enactment of NAFTA, apple exports to Mexico quadrupled and those to Canada have doubled. Export sales to the two markets total nearly $450 million annually.

The organization is also asking the Trump Administration to remove section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum. Because of these tariffs, Mexico has retaliated against U.S. apples with a 20 percent tariff, costing growers $300 million in export losses thus far, and Canada could add apples to their list at any time.

“One out of every three apples is exported, and duty-free access to Mexico and Canada has been a tremendous benefit for the U.S. apple industry,” said USApple President and CEO Jim Bair. “Unfortunately, because of the section 232 tariffs, Mexico has unleashed a significant retaliatory tariff on our growers, costing the industry millions of dollars in export losses. It’s imperative that section 232 tariffs are removed and the USMCA ratified.”

Another issue impacting growers is having enough workers to harvest their apples. Few American workers are willing to take on labor-intensive seasonal farm jobs, such as apple harvesting, resulting in major labor shortages on U.S. farms. USApple is urging Congress to pass legislation that provides a stable, adequate and predictable supply of agricultural labor and replace or significantly reform the complicated and expensive H2-A program.

USApple members are also advocating for timely implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill, which contains critical funding for specialty crop research, the Market Access Program and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops, plant pest and disease grants, and critical nutrition programs.

“As growers continue to work toward solutions on trade, labor reform, ever-increasing regulations and production costs it is critical their voices are heard on Capitol Hill,” said Bair. “Decisions made here in Washington impact their businesses, their communities and the nation’s food supply.”