The U.S. Department of Agriculture will buy $18.6 million worth of apples and apple products in the near future, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Nov. 11.

The department also announced the purchase of $50 million of pork, $12.2 million of tart cherries and $1.8 million of dried plums. The purchases will help producers struggling with depressed markets, Vilsack said in a USDA news release.

The food will be used in school, emergency and Indian reservation programs. The USDA surveys potential suppliers and publicly invites bids.

The U.S. Apple Association in Vienna, Va., and apple industry leaders asked for the apple purchase, which is a bonus buy above what the government regularly buys for school lunch programs, said Diane Kurrle, vice president of public affairs for U.S. Apple. She said Washington state apple companies will have the opportunity to bid but don't always do so, depending on bid criteria and the crop year.

-- Dan Wheat

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