In the period before big-scale apple harvesting begins, growers are generally optimistic. The New York Apple Association, the promotional arm of some 600 growers, expects a harvest of 26.5 million bushels of apples -- barring any late-season damage. And they are hoping to exceed last year's skimpy $109.56 million sales figure. Crop quality is said to be excellent, although earlier varieties may be slightly smaller in size than later ones.
The association has $1.7 million to spend selling New York apples. The task may be somewhat easier because Washington State growers, by far the nation's largest apple producers, expect a 124 million-bushel crop, 29 million bushels fewer than last year. When overloaded with apples, Washington State squeezes New York growers and those in other states by dropping prices.
The apple growers have two other factors going their way. The International Trade Commission has found that Chinese exporters had indeed "dumped" their apple juice concentrates on the American market, making 1998 Western New York juice apples nearly worthless. That depressed grower prices even more, but supermarkets failed to pass the lower apple costs to their customers. The commission is considering imposing a tariff on imported apple juice concentrates that could be as high as 91 percent. Moreover, growers want it retroactive.
Although summer still has 10 days to go, the first cider of the 1999 fall season has been pressed. Mayer Brothers, Williamsville Water Mill and Boston's Red Barrel found enough early apples to press the first batch of the favorite autumn apple juice drink.
On the labor front, bills are expected to be introduced -- first in the Senate -- that would in effect allow thousands of illegal aliens to work on farms on a year-by-year permit basis. "That bill, if it becomes law, would not only help fruit and vegetable growers, but also dairy farmers who are hard-pressed for workers," said Gary Fitch of Wilson, whose Agricultural Affiliates lobbies for farm causes. In this connection, Fitch joined others in praising Sen. Charles Schumer, D-Brooklyn, who has taken an active interest in New York agriculture since taking office last January. "First time I ever remember a U.S. senator visiting Chautauqua County," one grower said during a recent Jamestown gathering, Fitch recalled.
The 4-H meat animal sales conducted at most Western New York county fairs go a long way toward boosting the morale and recognizing the labor and skills of the youngsters besides boosting their bank accounts. This year's sales at the Erie County Fair brought in $139,665. The steer, raised by Evan Gerhardt of East Aurora, was bought by E.B. Keele, who paid a total of $3,867. The top-priced lamb was raised by Charles Kelkenberg of Clarence. It was sold to Frey's Old Time Furniture for $6.20 a pound, bringing a total of $682. James Nati of Collins and Jenna May of Eden were paid $1,380 each by American Wire Tie for same-size swine that were auctioned for $6 a pound.
Despite 6.7 million acres of forests (one-third of the state's land mass) and 2 million more acres of trees than were growing in 1946, New York remains a timber importer. Forest growth currently is triple the harvest. The wood product labor force of 60,000 support an industry whose sales approach $4 billion. Although some hardwoods are finished here and some raw logs exported, the Empire State remains a net importer of wood, says the state's Forest Practice Board. Lumber dealers for years have complained that the high cost of doing business in New York discourages additional wood product investments. Markets for locally grown lumber do exist. That may explain why timber thefts occur. The state Department of Environmental Conservation offers management, theft prevention and sales advice to small woodlot owners. In Western New York, owners can reach a Department of Environmental Conservation forester by calling the Buffalo office at 851-7007.
The debate over the wisdom of genetically altered seeds and foods continues.History is filled with criticisms that arose after innovations, inventions and new ideas surfaced. Criticism is healthy in an evolving world. But when impartial agencies and professional associations give their approvals, some criticism can be premature or misdirected. A few weeks ago, some British and some American skeptics argued that monarch butterflies were being injured or killed if they flew over fields planted with bt corn. (The bt factor genetically engineered into corn seed empowers a plant to fight off certain insects.) The Horticulture Lookout, published by the Erie County Cooperative Extension service, a Cornell University sub-unit, in its August issue said that "sweeping statements" about the effect of bt corn pollen on monarch butterflies go well beyond what the data in their (Cornell) laboratory study will support. "We do not know how this relates to actual (pollen) exposure in the field." That statement was directed at both critics and advocates of bt corn use because balancing the risk-benefit factor of bt corn requires considerably more data, the article said.
Barnyard gossip -- The 1999 Erie County Family Food and Farm Tour begins at 8 a.m. next Saturday at the Grange Building on the Erie County Fairgrounds. Farms in Aurora, Holland and Sardinia will be visited. A nominal fee will be charged. . . . A two-hour wine-making class begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Niagara County Cooperative Extension Education Center, 4487 Lake Ave., Lockport. A $5 preregistration is requested, but walk-ins will be accepted if space permits. . . . An abundance of U-pick raspberries remain -- and will continue until frost -- on the vines at Awald's berry farm off Route 62, North Collins. . . . A group of self-described anarchists claims credit for the destruction of 1,000 cornstalks on the University of Maine farm that were being tested for their genetically modified resistance to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup.