Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge USDA to Provide Apples for Domestic Food Programs, Give Local Boost to Apple Producers Across Upstate New York

May 7, 2009

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand today urged United States Department of Agriculture to purchase at least one million boxes of fresh apples for domestic food programs. The move would provide apples to domestic nutrition programs throughout the state and provide an economic boost to local apple farmers. Without a significant purchase, the apple industry will likely experience long-term economic harm.

“Everybody knows that the best apples come from New York, but without action millions of these gems will go to waste, severely hurting the apple farmers across the state,” said Schumer. “The USDA has the opportunity to help the apple industry and provide local food programs with a healthy, satisfying food at the same time. We must provide some form of economic relief to our local farmers so that their farms can continue to thrive. I urge the USDA to take immediate action to protect the apple industry in New York and across the country.”

“As a mom and a lawmaker, I want the surplus of New York’s apples to go directly to local schools as a nutritious snack for our children,” said Senator Gillibrand, the first New York Senator in nearly 40 years to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee. “New York’s apple industry is a critical part of our statewide economy.  The USDA should take action to support our apple farmers during these tough economic times.”

The ongoing economic downturn has led to record inventories of fresh apples and large excess of processed apples. Without a significant purchase to lower excess inventories before the upcoming summer harvest, the $2 billion U.S. apple industry and the communities supported by apple production are likely to experience serious, long-term economic harm.

The USDA has the authority to purchase and distribute food commodities through the Domestic Food Program and distribute them to domestic nutrition programs, such as the National School Lunch Program.

Purchasing the apples would be beneficial to the recipients as recent research has linked apples to an impressive range of health benefits including weight loss, brain health, cancer prevention, and heart health.

The New York apple industry would also benefit from the move. New York is the second largest apple producing state in the United States, averaging 25.24 million bushels of production annually. Apples are grown on 51,097 bearing acres in six major production districts throughout the entire state.

The New York apple industry also provides employment for thousands of New Yorkers. The industry provides 10,000 direct agricultural jobs, 7,500 indirect jobs involved with handling, distribution, marketing and shipping of apple exports and thousands of other indirect jobs including agricultural supplies (equipment, chemicals and services), financial services and apple processing.

In an effort to prevent damaging the apple industry, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand today wrote to USDA Secretary Vilsack asking him to purchase one million boxes of fresh apples for domestic food programs.

Schumer and Gillibrand were joined by Senators John Kerry, Debbie Stabenow, Bob Casey, Jim Webb, Mark Warner, Carl Levin, Olympia Snow, Bernie Sanders, Mike Crapo, George Voinovich, Sherrod Brown, Barbara Boxer, and Maria Cantwell.