Bob Sutherland and Nels Veliquette, CFO of CherryKe, looking toward the future
The International Trade Commission on Wednesday decided to reverse its earlier implementation of preliminary tariffs on dried tart cherries from Turkey. Our friend Nels Veliquette (pictured above with Bob) was quoted in the Detroit News as saying this ruling “represents a body blow to an industry that was already struggling in the commodities cycle.” While this is indeed a hard knock, we are hopeful that the federal government will review this decision in view of the facts.
The Future of the Industry is Bright!
Many Northern Michigan farmers probably said “good riddance” to 2019, but after checking with some industry experts we are happy to report that things are looking up in the new decade. Here’s why we think 2020 will be the Comeback Year for the cherry industry.
Farmers have always been a hearty lot. They have to deal with weather. And pests. But U.S. cherry growers have had the added burden of trying to compete with the unfair practice of cherry dumping from Turkey. Michigan U.S. Sen. Gary Peters recently tackled this issue head on, testifying before the U.S. International Trade Commission and voicing his support of imposing tariffs on Turkish cherry exporters. Farmers have made a strong case and, at the time of writing, there’s positive momentum for a 650% tariff hike in Turkish cherries so our farmers have a fighting chance in the U.S. and abroad.
THE SPOTTED WING DROSOPHILA
First spotted in Michigan in 2010, this invasive fly is particularly damaging to berries and cherries. It can cause fruit to die and protecting against it costs valuable time and money for every cherry farmer. But according to Nikki Rothwell, Pest Management and Horticultural Educator at the Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center, well-funded research projects (including a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture), are making a significant difference in fighting this pest. Here’s to hoping that research continues to fight this pest so farmers can get back to what they do best — growing cherries!
THE FARMING COMMUNITY
There’s little question that pests and the influx of cheap international cherries have had a negative effect on the industry. But the real impact is on the members of our farming families, from head farmers to the migrant farmers and families that are integral to each summer’s harvest and production cycles. Some multi-generational cherry farms are even being forced to consider replacing cherry trees with other fruits. However, Nels Veliquette, CFO of Cherry Ke, along with other talented local leaders, are looking at innovative ways to support a strong industry for years to come, which includes focusing on affordable migrant housing and testing new cherry varieties to improve yields and return.
And perhaps the truest trend is the support of the Michigan community. From senators, to businesses, to people that have no ties to the industry, the greater community has stood in support of the farmers and their families. And I know, this will only continue to grow over time.
The cherry is more than a fruit. It’s livelihood, it’s jobs, and it’s a slice of pie you share with someone special.
Here’s to protecting the land, the fruit and the people we love. And here’s to a successful 2020 and beyond.