(UPDATED COVERAGE, July 25) The U.S. Apple Association aims to put a new leader in place as early as September after the end-of-August departure of current president and chief executive officer Nancy Foster.

In a statement released by U.S. Apple announcing her resignation, Foster said the Vienna, Va.-based association is well-positioned to meet upcoming industry challenges and said she was pursuing other opportunities.

Foster significantly increased the apple industry’s political effectiveness on Capitol Hill, Bill Dodd, chairman of the board for U.S. Apple and president of Fruit Growers Marketing Association, Newcomerstown, Pa., said in a statement.

“Nancy also established our highly popular leadership development program for early-career apple growers,” Dodd said in the statement. “She has recruited and directed a talented team of association staff who have consistently demonstrated a commitment to excellence.”

Chris Britton, the association’s board vice chairman, said Foster’s contract was not renewed but that the separation was amicable.

“We are very pleased with what Nancy has provided for us,” he said. “I think she’s looking for new opportunities.”

Britton described Foster as a “first-class lobbyist” who did valuable work for the association on immigration reform, labor and other issues.

“On Capitol Hill, everyone speaks well of Nancy and the association,” he said.

Mike Wade, president of Columbia Fruit Packers, Wenatchee, Wash., is chairman of the search committee for the new association president.

While he was not involved in the discussions immediately surrounding Foster’s depature, Wade’s impresssion was that “everyone is parting on great terms. Nancy has done an excellent job for us.”

By July 25, the search committee had narrowed its list of candidates to 6 or 7, and hoped to begin interviewing them soon, Wade said.

“It’s an impressive group of people,” he said.

Members of the search committee are:

  • Dodd;
  • John Rice, vice president of Gardners, Pa.-based Rice Fruit Co.;
  • Mark Nicholson, Red Jacket Orchards, Geneva, N.Y.; and
  • Julia Rothwell, Belding Fruit Storage, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Rice also praised Foster for her work over 11 years with U.S. Apple. He said he was not involved with the decision by the U.S. Apple board of trustees to go in a different leadership direction.

Rice said Foster will be present and lead board meetings at the Aug. 22-23 U.S. Apple Association Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference, the annual event when the association releases its crop production estimate.

The 2011 tax return for the U.S. Apple Association indicated the group then had a budget of about $2 million. Membership dues accounted for about $200,000, with state assessments close to $1.5 million and revenue from the marketing conference at close to $165,000.

Before coming to U.S. Apple in 2002, Foster was at CropLife America from 1995 to 2002 as the national director of political advocacy.

She succeeded Kraig Naasz, who led U.S. Apple from 1998 to 2002 before he left to become president of The Fertilizer Institute.

Markets Editor Andy Nelson contributed to this article.