Oct 23, 2018
Story outlines Michigan cherry industry’s concern over Turkish imports

A small industry that helps attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to northern Michigan could be at risk.

According to an Oct. 22 story published in the Detroit News, growers of Michigan tart cherries, which represents 75 percent of U.S. production, have seen their prices cut in half over the past few years. They blame it on what they call “dumping” of cherry products by Turkey.

As a result, some farmers in the northwest Lower Peninsula have ripped old trees from the ground and delayed plans for expansions, a sour note for an industry that every summer attracts throngs to the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City. If market conditions continue, the industry worries some growers will end their tart-cherry operations completely within the next year.

“It won’t take long,” said Phil Korson, executive director of the Cherry Marketing Institute. “We’re going to lose our industry if we don’t find a way to combat this.”

According to the Dewitt-based institute, imports of tariff-free, subsidized tart-cherry juice concentrate from Turkey are sinking growers’ prices and flooding a market the industry has poured millions into building. An upcoming decision from the Trump administration, however, could help turn the tide.

“American farmers can compete,” said Mike DeRuiter, a cherry grower and producer in Hart. “But the key is a level playing field.”

Turkey participates in the United States’ Generalized System of Preferences, which grants duty-free trade access for developing nations. But following a petition filed in December by the Cherry Marketing Institute, the federal government’s trade office is reviewing whether to remove cherry juice from the list. The ultimate decision would be made by President Donald Trump. Korson hopes to have an answer by the end of the year.

Ben LaCross, a 39-year-old, second-generation cherry farmer in Cedar, hopes recent efforts by the Trump administration to ensure fair trade are an indicator that the government will support their cause.

“We hope they will help us with this unfair situation,” he said, “even for a small industry like tart cherries that is so important to the country, so important to this state, so iconic to this region.”

To see the Detroit News story, click here.

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