Deal reached on U.S. apples in China

For the first time, all varieties of apples from the United States will go on sale in China, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. A deal was reached last week between officials for the United States and Chinese governments to grant access to all U.S. apple varieties, instead of just Red Delicious and Golden Delicious. The Washington Apple Commission — which represents growers of the nation's largest crop and most apple exports — said China stopped buying U.S. apples in 2012 because of concerns over a fungus. Access for Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples was regained last October. An agreement reached last week in San Francisco will for the first time open the door to all varieties in coming weeks, the USDA said. The deal culminates 20 years of efforts to send more varieties of apples to China. The deal has the potential to increase U.S. fresh apple exports by about 10 percent in the next two years, the Agriculture Department said.

Milk industry fights back

The milk industry is fed up with all the sourness over dairy. As Americans continue turning away from milk, an industry group is pushing back at its critics with a social media campaign trumpeting the benefits of milk. The association says it needs to act because attitudes about milk are deteriorating more rapidly, with vegan groups, nondairy competitors like almond milk and other perceived enemies getting louder online. Julia Kadison, CEO of Milk Processor Education Program, which represents milk companies, says the breaking point came last year when the British Medical Journal published a study suggesting drinking lots of milk could lead to earlier deaths and higher incidents of fractures. Even though the study urged a cautious interpretation of its findings, it prompted posts online about the dangers of drinking milk. On Tuesday, the "Get Real" social media campaign will be announced at a dairy industry gathering in Boca Raton, Fla., in conjunction with the National Dairy Council and Dairy Management Inc., which represent dairy farmers. The campaign is intended to drown out milk's detractors with positive posts about milk on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere. Milk's image is being muddied by diet trends and divergent attitudes about nutrition. Many who follow the popular Paleo diet, for instance, shun dairy because people didn't drink it during the Stone Age.

High court reverses benefits ruling

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a chemical company may be able to cut the health benefits of its retired workers, unanimously reversing an appeals court ruling that said the benefits had vested for life. "Courts should not construe ambiguous writings to create lifetime promises," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court, adding that "retiree health care benefits are not a form of deferred compensation." The Supreme Court returned the case to the appeals court, telling it to use ordinary principles of contract interpretation to determine whether the collective bargaining agreement at issue had granted free lifetime health care. The appeals court erred, Thomas wrote, "by placing a thumb on the scale in favor of vested retiree benefits in all collective bargaining agreements." The case concerned a union contract at the Point Pleasant Polyester Plant in Apple Grove, W. Va. Like many other collective bargaining agreements, it did not directly say whether health benefits for retirees would vest for life. M&G Polymers USA bought the plant in 2000. A few years later, it announced it would require retirees to contribute to the cost of their health care benefits. Several retirees sued, saying they had been promised free health care for life.

Seagate plunges 7.7 percent

Seagate Technology PLC, a maker of disk drives, plunged 7.7 percent after projecting quarterly revenue that trailed analysts' estimates. Revenue in Seagate's fiscal third quarter will be "at least" $3.45 billion, executives said Monday on a conference call. Analysts had forecast $3.59 billion, the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The company, which competes with Western Digital Corp. in the computer hard-drive market, has suffered from lessening demand for personal computers and related components in recent years amid the shift toward mobile devices, such as tablets. Seagate fell to $59.06 at the close in New York. Seagate, based in Cupertino, Calif., reported sales for the fiscal second quarter that also missed analysts' estimates.

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