~Growers say an exclusive licensing agreement unfairly shuts them out of the market~
ST. PAUL -- Apple growers from across Minnesota are asking the legislature for help creating a fair and competitive apple market, something they believe the University of Minnesota is jeopardizing with its latest premium apple variety.
Apple growers allege that when the university sold the license to grow and distribute the new MN 1914 apple to a single orchard, the university created an unfair marketing situation that puts every other apple grower at a disadvantage by making the license exclusive to one company. The growers testified before the House Higher Education Finance Committee Wednesday, asking for a task force that will help the apple industry and the university develop ways to release new plant varieties to the market in a way that treats all Minnesota businesses fairly. The committee approved their request.
“As a publicly funded land-grant institution, the university must be sensitive to the impact it will have on Minnesota’s agriculture industry if they continue offering exclusive growing licenses for their latest plant releases,” said State Representative Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City who is carrying the legislation. “This task force will bring together the ag industry and the university to find a solution that does not harm existing Minnesota businesses,” he added.
“The Minnesota apple industry produces less than 15% of the fresh apples consumed in the state. Growing Minnesota’s apple industry has the potential for many economic and health benefits. We feel the University of Minnesota should utilize its resources to first assist in the health and development of the apple industry in Minnesota and then to seek opportunities beyond Minnesota’s borders,” said State Representative Ray Cox, R-Northfield.
“Without the important work of this task force, I fear that the great fall tradition of visiting Minnesota apple orchards will be in jeopardy as many orchards will not be able to survive if they can’t offer the best apples available to their customers,” said State Representative Pete Nelson, R-Lindstrom.
The new apple is a mix of the popular Honeycrisp and Zestar varieties, both of which were also developed by the university. The apple, which is yet to have a name other than MN 1914, ripens around September 1, which is the beginning of the apple-marketing season. Minnesota’s apple growers have been waiting for a high quality variety that ripens so early in the season and expressed their concerns at not being able to offer it to all of their consumers.
The Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Minnesota Wheat Growers Association, Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture also supported the amendment.