Asparagus Industry Asks USDA For Help Heading Into Harvest

One of the first major crops of the Michigan harvest season is almost ready to be picked but without the help of the US Government, it may not be going anywhere.

“Consumers have clearly stated that they prefer product from Michigan, locally grown,” says John Bakker, Executive Director of Michigan Asparagus.Asparagus Pic

Michigan’s asparagus industry is in bad shape. Foreign imports have flooded the markets the past few seasons.

“We typically process about 10 million pounds and we only had market to do 7 million last year,” says Bakker.

That tanked market prices. Usually the USDA can step in and buy up the excess crop but the process of doing so this year was cut short.

“Pretty much everything got halted here about a month ago,“ says Bakker.

COVID-19 tightened the government’s purse strings on one end and then further destroyed demand on the other.

“The loss of restaurant and fewer trips consumers are making to grocery stores,” says Bakker, “It was not looking good for our season this year.”

Farmers are nowhere close to breaking even, not when it costs about $36 harvest and process 28 pounds of asparagus.

“A week ago asparagus was trading in the United States in the mid-teens,” says Bakker.

Congressman Bill Huizenga is pushing the USDA to hold up their end and possibly help those in need at the same time. In a statement he says, “Michigan grown asparagus would also be a valuable nutritional addition to food banks, schools, and senior meal programs in this time of need.“

Without the help, it will all go to waste.

“If the market doesn’t get better than what it was a week ago,” says Bakker, “We wouldn’t even take it out of the field, we couldn’t pay the help to get it out of the field.”

Categories: Coronavirus