Michigan cherry farmers ask for permanent tariffs on Turkish dried cherries

Dec 4, 2019

 

Thirty-year-old tart cherry trees are removed from Bardenhagen Farms in Suttons Bay. Farmer Jim Bardenhagen says he can’t afford to maintain them while the price of cherries are so low.
Credit Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Michigan cherry farmers were in Washington, D.C. Tuesday to make their final case for U.S. imposed tariffs on Turkish cherry products.

It is the last U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) hearing before the commission makes their decision, which could determine the fate of Michigan cherry farmers.

 

 

Back in September, the ITC put large tariffs on Turkish dried tart cherries. It was a win for Michigan farmers, who bemoaned Turkish government subsidies allowed Turkish farmers to sell tart cherries at half the price of domestic cherries.

 

But the ITC's September ruling was temporary, and Tuesday's hearing was set up to allow commissioners to investigate more and determine whether to make the penalty permanent. 

Nels Velliquette, a Traverse City cherry farmer, made the case for tariffs in person. He told the federal employees how farmers found the trade information that proved Turkey was giving subsidies.

 

"They had a lot of very attentive and engaged commissioners with some questioning and discussion that were really focused around the data, which is all official government statistics, in contrast to the Turkish expectation that the ITC would rely on their incomplete, sometimes contradictory self-reported questionnaires," Velliquette says. 

He says a representative from a cherry processor in Turkey disputed Michigan’s farmers arguments. In a brief filed before the hearing, Turkey’s representative said there was no evidence of their county substantially underselling dried tart cherries.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) says that's not true. He was at the hearing to support the farmers. He says without the tariffs, Michigan farmers will be in a terrible financial situation.

 

"We could very well lose this industry in northern Michigan," Peters says. "I know and we all know that our folks in Michigan can outcompete anybody as long as the rules are fair. And that’s what this should be about."

 

Peters says the bill he introduced in February, that would make the U.S. Commerce Department go after unfair practices in the cherry industry, is still in committee.

The ITC is expected to make its decision in mid-January.