The Michigan Apple Committee has granted ÚS$309,000 in funding for research that aims to improve its industry, specifically in areas including profitability and production, new markets and products, and consumer trends and insights.
The funding, which was approved at its annual March board meeting, will enable 11 new research projects to be carried out in 2019.
According to the Michigan Apple Committee’s executive director Diane Smith, the projects are on “everything from the best way to store apples to the best way to grow apples”.
“They’ll look at a lot of different areas from the maturity, pests and diseases, just about everything you can think of that might affect the production of apples.”
Smith says the majority of the studies the committee funded were proposed by researchers the group has previously worked with. They’ll present their findings in December, when the Great Lakes Fruit and Vegetable Expo is held in Grand Rapids.
In the meantime, Michigan’s apple industry is doing well despite difficulties, says Smith.
Commenting on the changing political landscape, she explains: “We have definite challenges with trade right now. we have a lot of tariffs that have been placed on U.S. apples in retaliation for the tariffs that have been placed on steel and aluminum, and so those have… hit U.S. apples in various export markets.
“Also, NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] was a great trade agreement for apples and with the new USMCA [United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement] that we’re waiting on, it would equally be fine for us but we need something passed.
“Another hot topic always for us is labor–making sure that we have a consistent labor force. We’re hoping that, at some point, the government can work out the immigration issues we have in this country so that we have a reliable workforce.”
Still, Smith says Michigan produced 24 million bushels this year and reports good domestic market sales.
One of the reasons she gives for this is Michigan’s “prime location”.
“We’re close to Chicago and many big populated locations where we’re considered the local apple, so that’s something that’s always really important for us.
Our production was pretty average for this past year, and we had great quality for our fresh crops. It was a good year for that.”