Sep 4, 2019
Michigan House panel seeks protection for cherry producers

The Michigan House Agriculture Committee, chaired by Rep. Julie Alexander, approved on Sept. 4 a resolution supporting a petition before the U.S. International Trade Commission to protect Michigan’s domestic cherry industry.

Michigan growers supply roughly 75 percent of the nation’s total domestic tart cherry production.

“Michigan’s cherry growers are asking for a rational solution in their petition to the U.S. Trade Commission, and I believe we need to support them in their pursuit of fair trading practices,” said Alexander, of Hanover. “Supporting our Michigan cherry growers and processors assures Michigan families the opportunity to buy local Michigan grown versus foreign imports.”

Research indicates that the Turkish government subsidizes the exports of tart cherries to the United States. Since 2016, tart cherry imports have risen 259%. Additionally, Turkish producers are benefitting from duty-free trade access granted under the United States’ Generalized System of Preferences, which is targeted toward helping developing nations.

“Just as our harvest returned to normal after a few challenging years, the tart cherry market was flooded with imports from Turkey at below market prices,” said Mark Miezio, president of Cherry Bay Orchards in Suttons Bay. “Without barriers in place to level the playing field, Turkey has the ability to take over the marketplace from Michigan growers.”

House Resolution 143 urges the Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce to protect U.S. cherry farmers. U.S. cherry processors in the Dried Tart Cherry Trade Committee say a ruling in favor of U.S. producers could result in up to a 628.9% tariff on Turkey’s dried cherry product.

“Michigan’s cherry producers play a key role in our state’s diverse, multi-billion dollar agriculture industry,” Alexander said. “We must protect our producers against unfair trading practices that harm the very people who built our cherry industry. This resolution would place the Legislature’s support squarely behind our agriculture industry and cherry growers’ petition for fair trading practices.”

The petition was filed on April 23 by five dried cherry processors: Michigan’s Shoreline Fruit LLC, Cherry Central Cooperative, Smeltzer Orchard Co., Graceland Fruit Inc. and Utah-based Payson Fruit Growers Co-op. The International Trade Commission is expected to issue a final ruling on the petition in early 2020.

Mark Miezio, president of Cherry Bay Orchards in Suttons Bay, advocates for a level playing field for U.S. tart cherry producers. Photo: Gary Pullano

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