The first round of USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) did include payments for the apple industry. However, Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, says apples were included in categories that didn’t apply to their industry.
“One of the biggest challenges was we needed to go back to USDA and provide them with the data they need to see that we qualified more under the price decline category which we were left out of,” said Smith.
The U.S. Apple Association worked with each apple producing state to make sure that there were all represented when collecting and providing data to USDA for additional assistance. Smith said one of the biggest issues was the data USDA was using had changed.
“One of the U.S. Apple staff members was going through the data and found there was a discrepancy in year-to-date versus previous years,” she said. “Come to find out they were collecting data in a different way. It started in February and that was one of the issues in determining whether apples qualified.”
The apple industry also needed to provide USDA with the data of the price declines.
“All U.S. apple-producing states had [price loss] ranging from 6.5 percent to nearly 25 percent price decline,” said Smith. “The threshold [USDA] was putting everything at was at least 5 percent price decline, so they did come back and agree that the average price decline they felt necessary was nearly 11 percent. That resulted in including us in the program.”
Smith said Michigan’s apple producers and growers across the country are content with this change and are in contact with FSA offices to file for assistance.
“We were very appreciative that they took the time to go through our appeal—it was very detailed,” said Smith. “We’re very happy as an industry right now that they included us.”
Michigan apple growers are coming off a rough 2019 with record-low prices to start the fall, and this financial assistance will be a benefit.
“This is going to be helpful for those growers that maybe had apples in storage that were destined for a fresh market, which would give them a better amount back,” said Smith. “Maybe now they’re going to end up having to go to process because they couldn’t be sold in a time frame that would have been beneficial to them.”
She added that Michigan Apples is working to notify all their growers to submit their paperwork to FSA before the August 28 deadline. More information can be found here.