Rotten Weather Hurting U.S. Apple Crop

By Samantha Kramer, Staff Writer
August 9, 2012; 5:04 AM ET
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The agricultural industry will have to deal with another hard hit this fall.

First, the cherries went. March was a cruel month for farmers; unusually warm days in the East and Midwest lured fruit trees to blossom early, until the late-spring freezes followed and destroyed the crops.

Now, those who favorite a glass of warm apple cider might see some unusually high prices for the classic autumn beverage.

Apple crops for Michigan will be about 90 percent smaller this year because of the weather. Diane Smith, executive director of The Michigan Apple Committee, said apples are the state's largest fruit crop, and can pump up to $900 million into the local economy.

It's another blow to the state that dealt with the same thing this summer when spring weather hurt the country's biggest cherry producer, reducing farmers' crops to a mere 2 percent. And joining the corn belt disaster from this year's drought, it's another blow to the country's agricultural economy.

Cold night freezes destroyed the apple buds that bloomed early from an unusually warm spring. (AP Photo/David Duprey)

It is too early to tell how large the price affects will be for consumers, but experts predict Michigan's crop size at 3 million bushels - compared to last year's total of 26 million, it's a hit that will have lasting effects, Smith said. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder deemed it "the worst natural disaster to strike Michigan's agriculture industry in more than 50 years."

"We're definitely going to see a huge, huge hit to the state, here," Smith said. "It doesn't just effect growers. It trickles down to their suppliers and the local community workers."

With less supply, apple product-lovers can expect to see prices jump for juices, sauces and jams. And it's not just Michigan; apple production is down country-wide.

Though there is no official estimate yet, Mark Gedris, the U.S. Apple Association's director of communications, said it wouldn't be surprising to see below 200 million bushels produced country-wide.

The United States average about 225 million bushels per year, he said.

"We won't start seeing heavy domestic impacts until September, but it's definitely going to be way lower this year," Gedris said. "We've had very high crops over the past ten years and prices have always maintained stability, so this is a new experience for a lot of people in the industry."

Farmers in Henderson County, the largest apple-producing county in North Carolina, will see about 15 percent of the crop they normally yield, according to county's local paper, The Citizen Times.

Citizens of North Carolina, the country's 7th-largest apple-producing state, have already seen the effects, the Times said. Apple juice prices have doubled by the pound, and processed apples used in applesauce and pies are nearly twice as much.

Spraying water on fruits during a "cold snap" to freeze them can actually protect the crop from dangerously low temperatures! Learn about other ways farmers keep their crops safe during a cold snap.


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