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.

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.

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Donald Seifrit
  • Extension Educator, Tree Fruit