USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey traveled to tart cherry country on Thursday. Alongside Congressman Jack Bergman of the 1st District, he held a roundtable discussion at Wunsch Farms in Traverse City.
“The cherry industry, especially the tart cherry industry, had some real challenges they’ve had to put up with,” said Northey. “All producers are fighting through the challenges of the markets changing with COVID, but they’ve had trade impacts on their industry as well.”
Bergman said that it was important Northey came to Northern Michigan to see some of the specific challenges tart cherry growers have.
”It says a lot for the commitment of the Department of Agriculture, but now [Northey] has to go back and sell the challenges that the tart cherry growers are having to get good policy as it relates to our cherry growers to thrive in a worldwide market,” he said.
Bergman added that the U.S. needs an all-hands-on-deck effort to reclaim dominance in trade, particularly in agriculture.
“We were the ones that created the science that created the agricultural products—the majority of the world who decided to grow them, they just piggybacked off of us,” said Bergman. “We made it happen. It’s up to our federal government, state governments, the trade organizations to make sure the hard work and effort of those in the U.S. [gets] rewarded long-term because they’ve put the investment of time and money into making the best products in the world.”
The original Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) didn’t fit the tart cherry industry well. Northey did discuss with growers about the possibilities for a CFAP 2 and how it could best fit their situation.
“The first round was essentially based on losses from January through April 15, and we weren’t picking and selling cherries at the time so there weren’t losses to a producer selling fruit at that time,” he said.
Our thanks for Michigan Farm Bureau for supplying the audio.