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January 2001, Volume 7, Number 1

Northwest: Apples

The US harvested about 240 million 42-pound bushels of apples in 2000, down from 251 million bushels in 1999. About 150 million bushels were produced in the western states, led by Washington; 30 million in the Midwest, led by Michigan; and 58 million in the East, led by New York.

US apple growers lost $760 million over the past three years, according to USDA, prompting the federal government to pay $138 million, equivalent to $30,000 for each of the 9,000 growers who produced apples in two of the last three years at a "market loss," meaning that the price they received did not cover their cost of production. The US has 2,500 varieties of apples, but 15 account for 90 percent of production; there were 10.6 billion pounds of apples produced in 2000. The leading variety is Red Delicious, which many consumers believe has been refined to look good for weeks on a grocery store shelf, not to taste good- the successful quest for the "perfect apple" may have been the industry's downfall.

Sea Mar, a Seattle-based, nonprofit health agency similar to Pasco-based La Clinica, opened the Sea Mar Motel in Pasco in September 2000 to house apple pickers. There are three room prices: $29.95 for the general public; $24.95 for people referred by other social service agencies; and $10 a day for low-income residents.

Timothy Egan, "Perfect Apple Pushed Growers Into Debt," New York Times, November 4, 2000.