Michigan farmers, lawmakers seek tariff on Turkish cherries

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan farmers and lawmakers want the federal government to impose a hefty tariff on dried tart cherries imported from Turkey, arguing that a subsidy on the fruit is impeding American farmers' ability to compete.

Cherry companies from Michigan and Utah last Tuesday asked the U.S. Commerce Department and International Trade Commission for a nearly 650% in tariff hikes on tart cherries imported from Turkey. The petition request would increase the price of $1 worth of cherries to $6.48.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters from Michigan also backed the petition.

"Michigan produces more than 70% of the nation's tart cherries," Peters said. "Unfortunately, Michigan cherry farmers have been forced to compete with heavily government subsidized cherry products from Turkey."

Michigan-based cherry processors Traverse City's Shoreline Fruit, Cherry Central Cooperative, Frankfort's Smeltzer Orchard Co., and Graceland Fruit along with Utah-based Payson Fruit Growers Co-op make up the Dried Tart Cherry Trade Committee that filed the petition, The Detroit News reported.

The companies allege Turkey is bringing dried tart cherries into the U.S. at a margin of up to 648% below fair value because of Turkish government subsidies- including grants, loans, investment incentives, tax credits and land provisions.

The ITC has been investigating whether Turkish subsidies have been hindering American farmers' from competing.

The processors are asking the ITC to determine that Turkey has injured their business or at least threatens to do so. The commission is expected to take a final vote by mid-January on tariffs.

The tart cherry industry annually contributes millions to northern Michigan's economy, the newspaper reported. Utah and Washington state are the other major U.S. producers.

Donald Gregory, chairman of the board of Cherry Bay Orchard in Traverse City, noted the fruit is a crucial part of the northern Michigan economy that is at risk without tariff protection.

"Any of you that have been to that part of Michigan will know how important tart cherries are to that part of the region," Gregory said. "The domestic industry has invested heavily in markets for tart cherries. ... Unfortunately, imports from Turkey are now reaping the benefits of all those efforts."

Published: Tue, Dec 10, 2019