The University of Minnesota recently released a new kind of apple — the SweeTango — but has decided to release it differently than past apple types. All other apples have been public; that is, anyone in the country could grow that apple after paying the University a one-time fee. But this time the U has decided to make an exclusive agreement with Pepin Farms Orchard, which is unfairly limiting the number of trees that smaller orchards can grow.
This limitation is designed to keep prices high: a good thing for the University and its apple-breeding program, which needs the money that will come from the SweeTango. With the U’s last apple, the Honeycrisp, too many growers grew the apple on ill-suited farmland, leading to low-quality apples and lower prices. It makes sense to refuse to sell the apple to orchards in which it will grow poorly, but not to exclude independent Minnesota farmers from being able to sell the apple wholesale, which only those in a national co-op can do.
The University of Minnesota and Pepin Farms Orchard should allow independent Minnesota farmers an increased role in growing and selling the SweeTango, rather than forming a monopoly to control its release. This would keep the brand strong by ensuring a good growing climate, help the state economy, and bring prices down for consumers. It would even boost the reputations of Pepin Farms and the U, showing that they are institutions willing to support the local and state economies and farmers, not the monopolization they appear to favor now.
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