Owens, Bill

Contact: Sean Magers 202-225-4611

Ease inspections on Canada-bound apples, Owens urges
Watertown Daily Times

Washington, Feb 9 -

Rep. William L. Owens has introduced legislation to make shipments of New York apples to Canada easier and cheaper.

Mr. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, is taking aim at a 1933 law that requires all fresh apples to be inspected before export — a requirement that slows business and costs shippers as much as $300 a load for bulk shipments, the New York Apple Association reported.

The congressman proposes to exempt bulk apples — those that still require packaging or processing in Canada — from the inspections. A similar exemption took effect for pears in the 1999 at the direction of Congress and for similar reasons. Now apple growers want the same treatment.

“We didn’t want to go through the cost or trouble of inspecting that load of apples,” especially with buyers not demanding it, said Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association.

The USDA said the law was intended to assure the quality of exported apples and pears and to standardize packaging and containers used by exporters.

A spokesman for Mr. Owens, Sean Magers, said the congressman introduced the bill Tuesday after working on the details with Mr. Allen’s organization. The Apple Association represents more than 700 growers throughout the state, with a heavy emphasis on the eastern side of Mr. Owens’ congressional district, the Hudson Valley and Western New York.

Mr. Magers said the legislation would give shippers a more flexible schedule by not requiring them to wait for an inspector to be available. The inspections are typically done at the initial shipping point, Mr. Allen said.

Producers have lived with the requirement for decades, but inspection fees have climbed dramatically in recent years and the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets has cut the number of inspectors it uses to meet the requirement for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Mr. Allen said.

New York, the nation’s number two apple producing state, shipped about 1.5 million bushels of apples to Canada last year, Mr. Allen said.

Many are used for sauce or juice, but some are packaged for eating fresh, he said.