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U.S. Apple Association Young Leader Program

Providing opportunities for young growers to engage in public policy affecting the apple industry.

2016

By Kyle Benner, El Vista Orchards and Young Grower Alliance

This year proved to be successful for sixteen young members of the apple industry who participated in this year’s US Apple Association’s Capitol Hill week. The opportunity known as US Apple’s Young Apple Leader program was well attended with young members of the industry from Washington, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Virginia, Idaho, and Pennsylvania.

The Young Apple Leader program held its 2016 Capital Hill Visit during the first week of March. Young growers, sponsors, and US Apple leaders began arriving in the Nation’s capital on Wednesday March 2nd in preparation of several days of work, bringing the industry’s most important issues “to the table” with our Congress men and women. Young apple leaders were also able to attend the many business meetings US Apple conducts during the week.

Wednesday night provided the first opportunity to meet our peer Young Apple Leaders or “YALs”, as well as the Board Members of US Apple. The sponsored event was held at the Capital Lounge which necessitated a ride by our Nation’s Capital building, a dramatic and first time experience for some, which helped set the stage for the important events to follow in the coming days. The evening facilitated many good conversations and made opportunity for establishing relationships with our new group.

Quickly, (as I’m learning most apple leader conversations go) the conversations went straight to the heavy topics. “How big is your farm? Do you use H2A workforce? How many bushels move through your packinghouse? What challenges do you face in the next 2 years?” These were just a few of the topics the YALs found ourselves discussing with our peers.

Thursday morning started bright and early with breakfast and the opportunity to hear Representative Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) speak about his experience with working with members of our Nation’s Agriculture as well as successful outcomes Mr. Collins has had with assisting growers in New York.

Without delay, the assembly was briefed on the day’s events. Groups were formed according to state, and we set out to bring the issues facing our industry to not just another meeting room, but rather to some of the most important meeting rooms some of the YALs will have the opportunity and privilege of being in. These are the meeting rooms where we as an industry in the United States can take our important issues and present them with members in Congressional office.

The issues that were discussed with our Congress men and women included the need for a more sustainable workforce, the importance of international trade, the need for continued assistance with industry-changing research, as well as the Federal Nutrition Programs that exist to make apples available to school children.

After the Capitol Hill visits concluded, growers, YALs, and US Apple Association members gathered at the Capitol Hill Club where we had the opportunity to meet Representative Barbara Comstock (R-Va.). Rep. Comstock spoke on specific issues that she has had the ability to influence and change for her immediate growers in Virginia.

Friday’s agenda consisted of US Apple Association meetings and reports from the major groups who represent what the growers face day-to-day and how US Apple has been researching and planning for successful outcomes. Such committee meetings were Education committee, Research Committee, Communications, US Apple Political Action Committee or PAC, and the Industry Information Committee. The business week ended with the PAC reception Friday night and a Board of Directors meeting on Saturday.

On behalf of myself, and Stephen Cowher (Dawson’s Orchards), who were in attendance from Pennsylvania, we thank the US Apple Association for their continued dedication and willingness to reach out to the next generation and give us an opportunity to meet and work together with our peers from all across this great nation.

We would like to thank specifically our sponsor Craig Hinkle, Vice President at Knouse Foods Cooperative, for his support. The program would not be as effective and fulfilling for me and Stephen without the sponsorship of Knouse Foods, Thank you.

2015

PA Young Growers Participate in Capital Hill Day with US Apple’s Young Apple Leader Program

by Karen Druschel, Dawson’s Orchards, Enon Valley, PA

This marked the sixth year for the US Apple Association’s “Young Apple Leader” Program (YAL), and once again, it was a success.

Sixteen individuals from seven states joined together with US Apple Directors and other apple industry leaders for the 2015 Capitol Hill Day on March 19 in Washington, D.C. Together we had the pleasure of meeting with our states’ Senators and Representatives to discuss the critical issues that are currently facing the apply industry, as well as being invited to US Apple’s annual Committee Meetings.

The weight of Thursday’s upcoming meetings was lessened as US Apple welcomed us with a casual dinner at Capitol Lounge on Wednesday evening. This was a wonderful time to get to know the other individuals who had been selected for the 2015 YAL class in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Thursday both began and ended on high notes with Washington State Representative Suzan DelBene speaking at our Issues Briefing Breakfast and Washington State Senator Dan Newhouse at the evening’s US Apple PAC Reception. Both brought pleasant and positive attitudes and wise words to the podium, sparking interesting conversations among my peers.

The day’s legislative meetings went well as we discussed current and ongoing topics such as Labor Reform, International Trade and Waters of the United States (WOTUS) with our elected officials, asking for their support. We were also sure to thank them for the continued funding for our many research projects and for the Federal Nutrition Programs that they support.

Friday began with another delicious breakfast accompanied by a very interesting immigration presentation given by Mark Hugo Lopez, Director of Hispanic Research at Pew Research Center. US Apple’s Committee Meetings commenced post breakfast, citing many exciting things planned for the upcoming 2015 calendar year and including an update on the recent Listeria outbreak by the FDA CORE Team. We were also privileged to get to hear from Doug McKalip, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture, during our lunch which forged a pleasant Segway into the remainder of the day’s meetings. Friday evening concluded with relaxing fun, conversation and BBQ at Hill Country.

We would like to extend sincere thanks to the US Apple Association Staff and seasoned members of the apple industry for their knowledge and kindness and their willingness to continue the YAL Program, as it was such a wonderful learning and networking experience for us all. On behalf of myself, David Benner (El Vista Orchards0, Patrick O’Hara (OHF Orchards) and Peter Wolfe (Rice Fruit Company), we extend a special thanks to Ken Guise and Knouse Foods Cooperative for their sponsorship of the Pennsylvania YALs as our time in Washington D.C. would not have been possible without your support!

2014

US Apple’s Young Apple Leader Program—the Largest Yet!

by Abby Lott

It was an honor to be one of the chosen Young Apple Leaders to participate in the Annual Capitol Hill Day with US Apple in March 2014. This was the largest Young Apple Leader program to date with 18 participants from 10 states across the US.

The young leaders were treated to a welcome dinner on Wednesday evening. This was the perfect environment for meeting and greeting our peers in the industry as well some of the US Apple staff and current board members.

Thursday started with a legislative briefing breakfast to give insight on the day. Everyone then split off with their representative states and went to Capitol Hill to visit several of the elected officials of that state. Although we were unable to meet personally with Senators and State Representatives because they were in recess, we were actually able to spend much more time discussing issues with their legislative assistants and directors. We were fortunate enough to meet with legislative assistants Brett Doyle (Senator Toomey), Liz Hermsen (Senator Casey), Marianne Myers (Representative Perry), Tricia Cascio (Representative Kelly), Carson Middleton (Representative Pitts) and legislative director Jamie Boone Biondi (Representative Shuster). The major issue that has the apple industry concerned is the agricultural labor reform. Some of the other issues discussed were the importance of international trade, research, and crop protection. We continued to thank them for passing the farm bill. Thursday finished up with the US ApplePAC with Becky Tallent, immigration policy advisor to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as the special guest speaker.

At breakfast Friday morning we were able to recap with the other young apple leaders about the previous day’s events on Capitol Hill. Jessa Allen from US Apple organized a tour of the Capitol for the Young Apple Leaders on Friday morning. It was a privilege to be one of the few groups allowed to tour our Nation’s Capital Building. We joined up later with the US Apple Board Members for a Leadership Luncheon and we were invited to the USApple Board Reception & Dinner at the Distric ChopHouse.

Being able to step into the Capitol and have meetings face to face with our elected officials was a wonderful educational experience. Although everyone we met with was very receptive of our concerns, it could be said that there was consensus that our government is currently at a standstill and we should not expect anything to move forward until there is a change in legislation. With that said, one of the most valuable aspects of the trip was the networking opportunities that we all had with industry leaders across the nation.

I would like to thank Jessa Allen and the US Apple staff and board of directors for organizing an amazing educational and networking event. I would like to thank Ken Guise and Knouse Foods for sponsoring a group of Young Apple Leaders to participate in the event. This is an opportunity that I hope many young apple leaders will have a chance to experience.

Get Involved with USApple Young Leader Program

by Maggie Reid Travis

We as an industry in the Mid-Atlantic have done an excellent job networking, educating, and exposing ourselves to the current events of the apple industry. But to get involved with USApple offers a different level of exposure – here you are the pulse that dictates the direction of our nation’s image, education campaigns, and our political influence on hot button issues. The USApple Young Leader program is designed to provide a positive experience for first timers entering this political arena.

The Young Leader program kicks off Wednesday evening with a reception dinner and networking evening with industry leaders. Thursday starts bright and early for Capitol Hill Day, with breakfast and talking points from the USApple directors. As to be expected, the hot topics for 2013 included immigration reform, the passing of a 2013 Farm Bill, and the effects of sequestration. The morning presentations offer great motivation, and then we break into groups by state and spend the day on the Hill meeting with members of Congress and advocate for their support. Thursday afternoon is the USApple PAC reception which benefits a chosen group supporting the apple industry’s issues. This year, we met with the “Republicans for Immigration” Super PAC and discussed both the Farm Bill and immigration reform in further detail with Senator Labrador (R-ID) and Representative Hudson (R-NC).

Friday switches gears to internal USApple operations. USApple is organized by committees, and so the day is spent reviewing reports and decisions from the prior year and then discussing what action plans to develop for the upcoming year. From research funding and marketing campaigns, to assessing the 2013 apple crop, the finesse and depth of conversation brought to the table on a national level was impressive. USApple does a tremendous amount of work with a very small staff, and they deserve our support. They are behind the apple articles you see in the media, the collaborative support on the legislative side, and they are always ready with a press release to refute an attack on the apple industry. USApple cares about the growers they work for, and they put passion into their work.

Regardless the type of farm you come from, USApple is relevant to what is happening to your business and they are an advocate you want on your side. The USApple Young Leader program is the perfect platform to learn from respected and influential leaders in our nation’s apple industry. The USApple members are very welcoming and inviting and they bring you into the organization with ease. There are many young growers within our community that have attended the Young Leader program, and I would encourage you to get involved.

Hot Topics on Capitol Hill…Quick Updates
Take Action on Immigration… Back in March, USApple was hopeful that the time had come and the support was in place for quick passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill. In the months since, the future of immigration reform remains uncertain. Debate will lead to a vote on this issue, and now is when our legislators need to hear our supportive voices. Contact your Senator, your Representative, just do something! Think of how free we will all feel with a legal workforce. Make your voice heard for the good of the industry.

2013 Farm Bill… The Senate recently approved a Farm Bill which includes the continuation of many of the favorable initiatives for specialty crops. The Market Access Program (MAP) is fully funded at the 2008 farm bill level, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is funded at $70 million/year, and most importantly, the Specialty Crop Research Initiative funding is restored. The House is scheduled to consider legislation June 17. There are some proposed changes to crop insurance so stay alert for updates.

2013 Apple Crop National Estimate… Due to sequestration, the USDA has cancelled both their final 2012 crop production report as well as their new 2013 crop estimate that usually is published in August. USApple will release the only 2013 national apple crop estimate at the 2013 Outlook Conference held in Chicago on August 22 & 23. Stay tuned for more information, or plan to join us in Chicago!

2013

by Philip Glaize III

Apple growers from across the country convened on Capitol Hill for the US Apple Association’s annual Hill Day. This included the 2013 US Apple Class of Young leaders representing major apple growing states. Grower constituents visited their Senators and Representatives to show face and promote apple issues, primarily labor. The ever busy and divided political climate in Congress prevented most elected officials from meeting directly with growers, although face time with aides and staffers elicits conversation in office and motivation to act.

Each of the offices visited by Virginia’s grower group are optimistic about comprehensive immigration reform passing this congress. The sentiment mirrored what former Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez, expressed in US Apple’s issues briefing. Immigration is back on the front burner in Washington. A Cuban immigrant himself, Mr. Gutierrez noted that the United States is the land of immigrants and failure to act now would ruin that legacy by maintaining an antiquated 1950s system. The proposed new system has ample Executive and Senate support but may fail in the House should Republicans not realize the need for a new stance on immigration after receiving very few Hispanic, Asian, and West African votes in recent national elections.

The group from Virginia sat down in person with Congressman Frank Wolf (R-10th) who entertained the discussion on labor but ultimately expressed discontent with partisan voting. Mr. Wolf understands labor needs and vowed to cross the isle and support reform legislation because if Congress does not act on immigration now, the issue will fall behind for another five years. America, and certainly apple growers, cannot afford to wait five years. With Mexico’s economy on the rise, coupled with a demographic shift (avg. children per Mexican woman: 1970 – seven, 2013 – two), a reliable, seasonal workforce will dry up. Congressman Wolf cautioned that while labor from Latin America is essential to our economy, we as a nation have much bigger problems – our debtor status to China being paramount.

As the youngest grower in Virginia’s group and of equal age to every staffer host, it became clear that generations of future leaders will face threats that are by nature the most complex in history. We easily identify holes in our governing system and factions in leadership, yet America remains attractive to thousands seeking a better life within our borders.

2012

This was the third year the U.S. Apple Association has trained and sent young apple growers to the nation's capitol, through their Young Leader Program. Young growers from the primary apple growing states met with representatives to help remind them of the issues and challenges facing the industry. Pennsylvania's delegates were Valerie Ramsburg, Rice Fruit Company and Mark Boyer, Ridgetop Orchard. Check out Valerie's article about her experience on Capitol Hill, in PA Fruit News and take a look at an article about the Young Leader Program in the Good Fruit Grower.

2011

by Ellie Hollabaugh Vranich

The U.S. Apple Association hosted its Annual Capitol Hill Day in cooperation with its spring board meeting in March this year. For the second year, two young representatives from each apple growing state were invited to participate in the week's events in Washington D.C. I was fortunate enough to have been one of the young leaders from Pennsylvania this year.

The entire experience was wonderful! Well, maybe everything except having to drive in rush hour traffic in Washington, D.C. (God bless the folks who do that every day, and thank God for rural Adams County, PA!) The young leaders were treated to a dinner on their first night in D.C. with Nancy Foster and Diane Kurrle, U.S. Apple staff, and a number of the current board members. It was an opportunity to get to know the faces behind U.S. Apple, talk about current apple issues, and learn about the U.S. Apple Association itself.

Thursday was a day packed with Capitol Hill visits to our state's congressional leaders. Armed will a full slate of apple issues, Pennsylvania was well-represented with a group of eight growers. Some or all of us met with Representatives Bill Shuster, Jason Altmire, Todd Platts, Tim Holden, and Jim Gerlach, and Senators Patrick Toomey and Robert Casey. Agricultural Labor, Stinkbug and SCRI research, the Farm Bill, and apples from China were some of the major topics we covered.

It became abundantly clear to me just how very important the U.S. Apple Association is to our industry, as meeting after meeting, the Congressmen were already well educated on our biggest apple issues, and largely supportive of working to make sure funding and support remain in place, despite the unrest our country is currently facing with budgetary demands.

On Friday, the young leaders were invited to attend U.S. Apple's Committee meetings, where we learned about the many other areas in which the Association supports our industry. They're getting involved with social media (have you seen their new blog or facebook page - check them out!), have a brand new website, and have been featured in dozens of media publications last fall alone - all to keep apples at the top of everyone's grocery lists. And that's only the work of the Education Committee, not to mention the other committees that are equally busy!

The experience was incredibly educational and altogether worthwhile. I'd like to thank Nancy Foster and the rest of the staff at U.S. Apple and the Board of Directors for welcoming me into your world for a few days, and Ken Guise and Knouse Foods for sponsoring the experience! I hope other young leaders will have the opportunity in future years to participate.