The Associated Press
YAKIMA, Wash. — In a bittersweet gesture to protest the low prices for apples, a Yakima Valley farmer and a warehouse on Thursday donated 20,000 pounds of apples to Northwest Harvest, a charity that feeds the poor.
“We give our apples away every day,” said Gary Holwegner, a Sunnyside farmer. “Today, we’re giving them to somebody who really needs them.”
Northwest Harvest will distribute the apples to food banks statewide, said Yakima coordinator Lisa Hall.
“I think it’s great. It’s far better than dumping the apples somewhere,” she said. “There’s a lot of people who can’t afford to buy apples.”
Nowadays, many farmers here in the country’s No. 1 apple state say they can’t afford to grow them, either. For the last three years, some farmers have let their fruit rot in the orchard rather than spend the money to harvest the crop.
The apples were donated by Rick Derrey, a Zillah farmer, and Olympic Fruit Co. as part of a tractor parade and protest, organized to raise consumer awareness about tough times in the fruit orchard.
“We don’t even get the cost of production anymore,” said Forrest Baugher, 65, who grows apples, cherries, pears and peaches south of Union Gap. “For the last three years, I haven’t made a profit with apples. I haven’t broke even.”
A similar rally was held last month in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee that concluded with a symbolic dumping of a bin of apples for television camera crews at a Douglas County park.
Apple and pear growers blame their troubles on high tariffs for exports and other trade restrictions; competition from Southern Hemisphere imports; powerful grocery store conglomerates that very nearly set their own prices for fruit; huge crops; and flat domestic consumption.
Farmers on average get as little as 5 cents a pound for apples that cost 15 cents a pound to produce, and sometimes sell for more than $1 in the grocery store, according to the Yakima County Farm Bureau.