Cherry growers use harvest to talk issues
Cherry growers are raising labor and farm bill concerns with key state and federal officials during harvest.
Head of the Cherry Marketing Institute Julie Gordon tells Brownfield a 12 percent increase in labor costs for growers using the H-2A seasonal guest worker program this year is not sustainable.
“With all the input costs going up the way they are and the tart cherry grower prices being stagnant, it’s making it very difficult for a lot of the smaller operations to stay in business,” she shares.
Senate Ag Committee Chairwomen Debbie Stabenow and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Tim Boring, along with other congressional leaders, recently participated in a cherry harvest and processing tour in northwest Michigan, the largest tart cherry production region in the country.
Gordon says growers would also like to get more American-grown products into feeding programs.
“We just want to make sure that cherries are included in the USDA programs,” she says. “We have a couple of tart cherry products right now on the list for school purchases, and we’re always looking to expand that list.”
The Cherry Marketing Institute is estimating production in Michigan will be down about 50 percent because of cold weather this spring, but Gorden says supplies should be adequate to meet consumer demand.
Photo courtesy of the Cherry Marketing Institute.