We've Got Issues: U.S. cherry juice ad campaign a big success ... for Turkey

May 22, 2017

Burnette Foods stores excess cherries in its Elk Rapids warehouse.
Credit Aaron Selbig

Tart cherry growers in northern Michigan are hoping the Trump administration can help them get a leg up in the juice market.

Growers started an ad campaign in 2008 to get Americans to drink more cherry juice. The campaign called cherries "America's superfruit," and it successfully boosted consumption of tart cherry juice in the U.S.

But right now, most cherry juice sold in the U.S. comes from Turkey or Poland. 

"We're all about free trade but at the end of the day, we're about fair trade," says Cherry Marketing Institute Executive Director Phil Korson. "This market here in the U.S. was built by U.S. farmers ... and folks from offshore have benefited from it."

Korson says the biggest juice importer - Turkey - pays no tariff at all when shipping its product into the U.S. Korson would like that to change, but President Donald Trump's new trade ambassador, Robert Lighthizer, only took office last week.

Meanwhile, some in the cherry industry say their product is over-regulated. Bill Sherman, owner of Burnette Foods in Elk Rapids, says raising tariffs on Turkey is a fine idea but what really needs to happen is less regulation of domestic cherries. 

"We haven't been able to meet the market demand because of the restrictions," says Sherman, referring to rules enforced by the Cherry Industry Administration Board. "We're restricting the sales of the U.S. product but there's no restriction on the sale of the imported product."