2019 marked the U.S. Apple Association’s largest class of Young Apple Leaders, with twenty-one individuals from nine apple growing states representing the apple industry in Washington D.C.

Alexandra Roberts representing PA growers on a visit to Capitol Hill

Alexandra Roberts representing PA growers on a visit to Capitol Hill

by Alexandra Roberts, Rice Fruit Company

This year marked the U.S. Apple Association's largest class of Young Apple Leaders (YALs) with twenty-one individuals from nine apple growing states on March 12-14, 2019. I was honored to represent Pennsylvania as a 2019 YAL, along with Carena Guise from Knouse Food Cooperative, Inc. We joined with US Apple leaders to advocate on important issues impacting growers and the $15 billion per year apple industry.

The YAL program kicked off Tuesday night at the Capitol Lounge. The relaxed atmosphere allowed us to meet other YAL individuals and US Apple board members. Casual discussions were held about our individual states along with common issues in the apple industry. This was a great start to creating future relationships with current and future leaders in the apple industry.

Wednesday morning started off with a Legislative Briefing Breakfast to brief us on key points to use in advocating on critical issues for American apple growers and what to expect during Capitol Hill visits. The 2019 legislative priorities focused on international trade, agricultural labor reform, crop protection, and research support. Background information and key points were provided to assist when speaking with our elected officials. Washington State Representative Suzan DelBene spoke at the breakfast as a strong supporter of the apple industry and provided encouragement to everyone preparing to take these messages to the Hill.

I was fortunate to be with talented Pennsylvania apple leaders, Brenda Briggs, Mark Boyer, David Benner, Ryan Hess, Mattie Leid, Mike Pautz, and Craig Hinkle. They led our group in representing Pennsylvania in scheduled visits with elected officials from various regions of Pennsylvania. We hit the ground running in the Russell Senate Office building and continued through the day discussing the tariffs that are damaging our export market, the need for labor to harvest our apple crops, and other issues affecting the apple industry.

Our meetings were positive with overall support for the apple industry. However, it was evident that the current political atmosphere is making it harder to resolve issues as everything is a referendum on the current President. Nevertheless, we were encouraged to continue voicing our concerns and pushing our agenda. At the end of the day, several of us met with freshman U.S. congressman Dr. John Joyce whose district includes Franklin, Fulton and Adams counties. With Rice Fruit Company and many apple growing acres located in these counties, it was refreshing meeting with Dr. Joyce to learn he will be a supporter and advocate for apple industry issues. The long day of lobbying ended with the US Apple PAC reception.
On Thursday, YALs attended US Apple committee meetings with various topics discussed from education to industry information. We learned about the functions of US Apple and how they advocate for the apple industry daily. This was followed by time to explore our nation's capital and a US Apple appreciation dinner.

The US Apple Capitol Hill Day was a fascinating experience for me. Despite the political atmosphere, I believe it is truly important to continue voicing our concerns and asking our representatives for solutions that benefit the apple industry. It was also valuable to network and establish relationships with other YALs and veteran apple industry members.

I'd like to thank US Apple and the staff for their commitment to the YALs program by fostering and encouraging the next generation to become leaders in the industry. A special thanks goes to Craig Hinkle and Knouse Foods Cooperative, Inc., for their sponsorship of the YALs program.

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