Nov 5, 2019Michigan cherry growers talk Turkey, tariffs with senator
Thanksgiving is weeks away, but talk of Turkey dominated a roundtable discussion between U.S. Sen. Gary Peters , D-Michigan, and region fruit growers.
According to the Traverse City Record-Eagle, more than two dozen growers talked about tariffs, regulations and labor with Peters Nov. 1 at the Michigan State University Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station.
Peters said a preliminary decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission to put tariffs on tart cherry exports from Turkey is a step toward leveling an uneven playing field.
“America can compete with anybody in the world as long as the rules are fair,” Peters said early in his opening remarks.
But there is also no time to rest.
“I’ve been focused on this; I’ve introduced legislation to get the Commerce Department to be more aggressive in standing up for smaller growers and smaller industries,” Peters said after the event. “Although progress is being made when it comes to direct Turkish imports into the United States, we’re fearful that perhaps some of those cherries are going to Brazil and will continue to have negative effects on growers in Traverse City and we cannot let that happen.”
The Record-Eagle also reported:
Peters said staying vigilant is important because the Turks are not always “honorable actors” and may strive to circumvent policy.
“You always feel like you’re playing that old game of whack-a-mole,” Peters said.
That’s why Peters reintroduced bipartisan legislation in February to establish a task force in the U.S. Department of Commerce to investigate trade abuses in the marketplace.
Peters added the U.S. lacks nearly 1,000 agricultural inspectors at the border. He has proposed legislation that would add 240 inspectors every year until the gap is closed. Peters said he has suggested canine units.
“We have to take a more aggressive stance,” he said.
Fruit growers from the region talked to Peters about a host of U.S. regulatory issues.
The bulk of the discussion with Peters focused on the rising costs of audits. According to the United States Department of Agriculture website, audits “verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards.”
Dave Meister of Apple Valley Orchards, LLC in Manistee County said he has to get three different audits of his fruit depending on the market. Meister said having one standardized audit would save time and money.
Manistee County farmer Dave Smeltzer said he spent $3,000 on audits last year. Karen Bargy of Bargy Orchards in Antrim County said the price of her audits doubled last year and had a tremendous financial affect on her 20-acre farm.
“As a small grower that’s ridiculous,” she said.
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, answers a question at a roundtable with Traverse City, Michigan-area fruit growers at the Michigan State University Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station on Nov. 1. From left, are Dave Meister of Manistee County, Peters, Peters’ Northern Michigan Regional Director Eric Keller and Manistee County grower Dave Smeltzer. Photo: Mark Urban/