The first forecast of this fall’s U.S. apple crop is up 9% from 2018 with the most projected growth at 14% in Washington and Michigan.

Total U.S. fresh and processed production was estimated at 267.2 million, 42-pound boxes at the Premier Apple Cooperative meeting in Syracuse, N.Y., on June 25.

The USDA final number for 2018 is 244.2 million boxes, and the record was 282 million in 2014.

“This is very manageable. This is in the lower end of five years. The industry can handle it easily,” said Mark Seetin, director of regulatory and industry affairs at the U.S. Apple Association.

Michigan’s crop last year was curtailed by frost, so its new number reflects a more normal growing season. Washington also is bouncing back from a short year, Seetin said.

Labor shortages continue to be “chronic and problematic” in all major growing areas. New York and Michigan have turned more to H-2A visa guestworkers in recent years, Seetin said.

While the end of Mexico’s 20% tariff on U.S. apples is a bright spot, “concerns and frustration” remain over other tariffs and unresolved trade issues, he said.

At the meeting, Seetin announced the Federal Crop Insurance Commission has approved a new apple tree crop insurance policy distinct from an existing policy that covers fruit only.

The program will provide a tree-based dollar amount of insurance with liability being established on a per-tree basis, he said. It will be available in Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Idaho and Oregon with other states possibly being added later, he said.

It will be offered for the 2021 crop year with an initial sales closing of April 15, 2020, he said.

“It’s really important because the industry is going through a huge change in the last four to six years to more and more high-density plantings and newer varieties that cost up to $10 per tree,” Seetin said.

That adds up fast so growers want a policy that will cover damage from disease and other things including frost, wind and wildfire, he said.

Seetin also announced that USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has ceased reporting statistics on individual processed apple products but will report total processed apple products. It also has reduced its apple production reporting from 20 states to seven that account for more than 94% of national production. The seven are Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Virginia and Oregon.

The Washington State Tree Fruit Association will forecast the Washington crop in early August and U.S. Apple will give its national crop estimate at its annual Crop Outlook and Marketing conference in Chicago on Aug. 22-23.

Source: Dan Wheat, Capital Press