By Associated Press - Friday, July 10, 2020

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that apple growers are now eligible for relief aid through a coronavirus food assistance program.

The department revised its criteria so apple growers qualify for payments, saying they experienced a sales price loss of at least 5% when selling products between Jan. 15 and April 15, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

Previously, the department said apple growers were not eligible based on data it collected at a dozen terminal markets, despite industry officials arguing most sales happen outside those markets.

The U.S. Apple Association and 11 grower groups, including the Washington Apple Commission and the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, provided data last month documenting the price loss was closer to 11%, more than double the federal funding requirement.

“It’s big news today,” Northwest Horticultural Council president Mark Powers said. “It’s a huge win for industry and apple growers.”

The Northwest Horticultural Council is a Yakima-based organization that advocates for the region’s tree fruit industry, including apple growers.

Washington State Tree Fruit Association President Jon DeVaney said direct payments will help apple growers recover their losses from earlier in the year and put them in a better position ahead of the next harvest in the coming months.

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