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Michigan’s apple industry gets some relief from USDA buyout

A honeycrisp apple on the tree at Cherry Bay Orchards in Suttons Bay. (Photo: Ellie Katz/IPR News)
A honeycrisp apple on the tree at Cherry Bay Orchards in Suttons Bay. (Photo: Ellie Katz/IPR News)

Michigan’s apple industry is getting some relief after the second record-breaking harvest in a row.

The harvest was so big that growers and processors had trouble selling all of it.

But now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it will buy $100 million worth of fresh apples and processed apple products.

The purchase is national, but Michigan is a top state for apple growing and processing.

Dawn Drake, with the Michigan Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Association, says she began advocating for the buyout in late summer.

“What it does is allow processors to go out and purchase apples that are in storage and have no home,” said Drake. “And it trickles down to growers in the respect that they’ve already paid to have those apples harvested.”

She says the USDA purchase helps move that product along, which would otherwise sit in storage. Between the crop surplus and high prices at the grocery store, Drake says retail sales for apples lagged.

But many growers, unable to find buyers and lacking long-term storage, had to leave fruit on the tree this year. Drake says the deal won’t help them recoup those losses.

The products purchased in the buyout – like fresh apples, apple sauce cups and bagged slices – will be distributed to food banks, schools and other meal assistance programs across the country.

This is the second consecutive year the USDA has bought surplus apples.

Ellie Katz joined IPR in June 2023. She reports on science, conservation and the environment.