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Michigan cherry farmers file trade dispute case with Turkey

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Max Johnston
/
Interlochen Public Radio

U.S. cherry farmers filed a legal case against the country of Turkey on Tuesday. They say Turkey subsidizes their cherries so much that they can sell some products for half the price of domestic ones.

Cherry farmers in the U.S. have already spent $2 million on the case, which is filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Commerce Department will investigate Turkey's subsidies and could levy tariffs on their cherries to offset the price difference.

Cherry grower Don Gregory says farmers can't compete with these cheap foreign imports.

"We're in a life [or] death situation when it comes to dried cherries in the United States," Gregory said.

The announcement came as U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) visited a cherry processing plant in Williamsburg. Last month, he introduced a bill that would make the Commerce Department go after unfair practices in the cherry trade. Peters says that bill is currently in committee.

"Local cherry farmers have come together to do an action, but it cost millions of dollars," Peters said. "That's why it's important to get legislation to help small manufacturers ... stand up against countries that are engaged in unfair trade activity."

Turkish cherries have flooded U.S. markets since 2012. As of 2016, the U.S imports more than 200 million pounds of Turkish cherry products each year.

Max came to IPR in 2017 as an environmental intern. In 2018, he returned to the station as a reporter and quickly took on leadership roles as Interim News Director and eventually Assignment Editor. Before joining IPR, Max worked as a news director and reporter at Michigan State University's student radio station WDBM. In 2018, he reported on a Title IX dispute with MSU in his story "Prompt, Thorough and Impartial." His work has also been heard on Michigan Radio, WDBM and WKAR in East Lansing and NPR.