As vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation and president of the Washington Farm Bureau, Steve Appel met President George W. Bush and Cuban President Fidel Castro on separate occasions.
AFBF President Bob Stallman, Appel and several other state Farm Bureau presidents were discussing agricultural issues at the White House with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick when "the big oak doors swung open and in charged the president. We all stood up out of respect. And he said, 'Oh, hell, sit down. We're just going to sit around and talk for awhile.' And that's exactly what we did. It was such a comfortable situation that you felt totally at ease."
In 1999, the Clinton administration asked the Farm Bureau to send a delegation to Cuba to investigate trade potential if trade barriers were relaxed. The delegation met farmers, officials and Castro.
"He was very gregarious but also very much dominating any conversation. He didn't give you much chance to talk," Appel said. "It surprised me how big he was. He's a very tall man. He was certainly what you might expect for a longtime dictator. It's his way or the highway."
The trip ultimately resulted in limited U.S. exports of rice, wheat and chicken to Cuba and some Pacific Northwest apples and wine.
-- Dan Wheat
Have an apple or an appel
The name is spelled Appel but it is pronounced "Apple," and Steve Appel has taken his share of kidding about it over the years.
He's introduced as an apple that grows wheat. People say, "Ah-pel" or even "Appeal."
His favorite story about it is from his childhood.
He was in the second grade. His teacher faulted him for misspelling apple on a spelling test.
"I had quite an argument with her," he recalled. "I informed her that my mom taught me how to spell appel and that she knew how to spell."
-- Dan Wheat