Leelanau County Cherry Farmers Thrilled As USDA Announces Plan to Purchase Additional $15 Million Worth of Tart Cherries

The USDA plans to buy an additional $15 million worth of tart cherries.

Making local growers happy.

That means the USDA will now buy a total of $30 million worth of cherries.

They will be distributed to food assistance programs.

The purchase is meant to help offset the impact cherry farmers are feeling from what they say are unfair trade practices from countries like Turkey.

They say Turkey has flooded the U.S. market with cheap imports which have hurt the price of cherries grown here.

It’s been news cherry farmers in northern Michigan had been hoping would come: that the USDA plans to buy an additional $15 million worth of tart cherries. Don Gregory is chairman of the board at Cherry Bay Orchards.

“It’s going to help put a little more money into growers pockets, and coming into the season with a few less cherries in the inventory, so we’re pretty excited about it. It will be interesting to see how soon they’re able to come out with the bid,” said Gregory.

It was March of this year when cherry farmers learned the USDA planned to buy $15 million worth of tart cherries. This additional $15 million means they’re now buying $30 million worth of tart cherries, including ones grown right here in northern Michigan.

Ben LaCross is a cherry farmer in Leelanau County. He says the move by the USDA was needed with the harvest coming down the road.

“We would be faced with extremely high inventory levels if we didn’t get this, so this is going to alleviate a little bit of our inventory pressure. It won’t fix all of our inventory problems going forward because we have a wonderful crop of cherries that are about to be harvested in the next month,” said LaCross.

He says there are still several hurdles to overcome as they wait on the outcome of an anti-dumping case filed against Turkey.

“We grow the greatest fruit in the world. We’re confident of that, but we need to be able to compete on a fair playing field,” said LaCross.