The apple industry in New York State might have a much larger impact on its rural economies than traditionally estimated, a Cornell-led research found after drawing from locally sourced data instead of the more widely used national data.

Traditional models that draw upon secondary and national data tend to misrepresent local economies, according to Prof. Todd Schmit, applied economics and management and lead author of the study.

The team found a “huge” difference in the result of the apple industry’s economic contribution after using the primary data instead of the secondary data. Using secondary data to conduct the research will end up “discounting the total impact by like 20 percent,” Schmit told The Sun.

The primary data the team used comes from the Lake Ontario Fruit Program under the Cornell Cooperative Extension. The program “worked with a lot of apple farmers” and collected the data that was used in the study, Schmit said.

Schmit wanted to collect specific spending data particularly for apple farmers in the New York state. The existing data they can purchase is “not specifically for apples” and is the national average data, according to Schmit.

“[For the national data,] you are not confident that this is a good representation because it is an average national spending pattern,” Schmit said. “Washington State, for example, is the number one state in the country producing apples and New York is the second, but the level of production is quite different.”

“So when you think of averaging all the spending from Washington and all the spending from New York, the average is gonna be more like Washington because it is bigger,” he continued.

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The research also contributes to the apple industry itself by giving the results to the New York Apple Association, a non-profit trade association representing apple growers in NYS. It informs the consumers of where the food is coming from and serves as “an important public message,” according to Schmit.

“This type of information and message to consumers is really important.” Schmit explained to us, “Particularly in recent years there is a heightened awareness in the importance in the local regional food system.”

The research further highlighted economic development strategies within the apple industry. The study shows the multiplier effects of the apple industry where the original 375 million dollar apple sales can grow into a 2 billion dollar industry when looking at the whole supply chain. This has a “broader implication outside the apple industry itself,” according to Schmit.

“[The study] clearly highlights what are the other industries that should be supported outside the apple industry because this is where they purchase apples from,” Schmit said. “They are employing local labor and so you can identify those types of linkages outside the apple industry through this work.”

The NYAA appointed Cornell to do the study because Cornell is the “land grant school in New York State,” according to Prof. Roberta Severson, applied economics and management, one of the co-authors of the study.

From a Cornell perspective, this research is not only a way of “documenting the importance of the industry” but also calls for the need “for additional research” to support the apple industry, Severson said.

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