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The U.S. Apple Association in Vienna, VA, applauded the Obama administration for its plan to purchase $18.6 million worth of apples in the near future. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement Nov. 11 at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters' annual convention in Kansas City, MO.

"The American apple industry is very pleased with [the U.S. Department of Agriculture's] plans to purchase apples and apple products," Nancy Foster, USApple president and chief executive officer, said in a Nov. 11 press release. "This fall's abundant apple harvest means plenty of tasty and nutritious apples and apple products for consumers, including those who will enjoy them as part of this significant purchase."

Ms. Foster added that research on apples and health suggests that regular apple consumption may aid in preventing cancer, heart disease, memory impairment and other health complications.

USApple and apple industry leaders have worked extensively over the past year to encourage the USDA to make the apple purchase. The department was expected to soon begin surveying potential suppliers and publicly invite bids. This will help ensure near-term delivery.

Some USDA programs likely to benefit from the large apple purchase include the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program.

The USDA food purchases are also used for distribution to victims of natural disasters.