Four local cherry processors threw the first stone in the fight to remedy international cherry dumping — flooding the U.S. market with cheap, heavily subsidized dried cherries.
It landed. Their petition moves to the U.S. Commerce Department with initial blessings from the International Trade Commission, which unanimously found cause to investigate Turkey’s practices.
The group is requesting a 650 percent antidumping and countervailing tariff on Turkey’s dried tart cherries.
But this is the first swipe in a long battle — the cherry-growing equivalent of getting the walk-on music approved for the real boxing match. While it may seem that placing tariffs on other countries sometimes can be done by whim, the usual process is long, with several rounds between now and January when the issue returns to the ITC.
The issue has real, local consequences.
The petitioners — Shoreline Fruit LLC, Graceland Fruit Inc., Cherry Central Cooperative and Smeltzer Orchard Co., plus the Payson Fruit Growers Co-op from Utah; together known as the Dried Tart Cherry Trade Committee — are trying to out-compete dried cherries imported from Turkey declared at less than $1 per pound.
“So you’ve got $4 to $5 dollars worth of cherries, plus the cost of drying the cherries, plus the cost of shipping those cherries, and they’re being declared in this country at less than a dollar a pound,” Don Gregory of Shoreline Fruit told us when they filed the petition.
“They’re putting no value on the cherries at all.”
That’s not the case in northern Michigan where we value our cherries immensely.
We need our lawmakers and bureaucrats to do the same, and close loopholes in the system — like the 2018 action that ended duty-free status on tart cherry juice.
We are also buoyed by bipartisan legislation (led by U.S. Senators Gary Peters of Michigan and Richard Burr of North Carolina) to make the process easier to address unfair trade without a petition from a trade group.
Even though the blossoms are beautiful and the fruit is healthy this year, these trade practices keep local growers reliving the devastation of the 2012 April freeze that wiped out our cherries — and opened a window that keeps a freeze on progress and healing.