Ag Labor, NAFTA and Farm Bill Tops List of Capitol Hill Priorities

Washington, DC (March 16, 2018)—More than 90 apple growers from across the nation met Thursday in Washington, DC, 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 agriculture labor, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the farm bill.

One of the top issues 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. It is estimated that the lack of available labor to increase production and match the rising demand for fresh produce costs the U.S. economy $3.1 billion per year.

“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,” said USApple President and CEO Jim Bair. “Labor-intensive agriculture like apples desperately needs a legal, reliable and stable workforce.”

Another issue critical to the U.S. apple industry is maintaining NAFTA. Since the agreement took effect, American apple growers have quadrupled and doubled their exports to Mexico and Canada, respectively. With a combined value of $430 million annually, these top two exporting countries represent a 46 percent share of U.S. apple exports. NAFTA is important to the entire agriculture industry and the U.S. economy as a whole. The agreement boosts millions of American jobs, commodity markets and critical industry supply chains. NAFTA also allows American agriculture to maintain a competitive advantage in the international trade arena, where preserving and growing access to markets is critical.

Apple growers also talked with their congressional representatives about the upcoming reauthorization of the farm bill. They urged their members to maintain and expand funding levels from the 2014 farm bill and, in particular, to maintain funding for the Specialty Crop Title.

“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,” said Jim Bair. “It is critical their voices are heard in Washington on issues that impact their businesses, their communities and the nation’s food supply.”

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