The U.S. International Trade Commission will begin tracking tart cherry foreign imports to accurately measure the impact of trade on Michigan’s tart cherry industry.
The decision comes at the urging of U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., to begin tracking this data.
In January, Stabenow and Peters blasted the commission’s decision not to impose tariffs against Turkish tart cherry exporters. Turkey has dumped low-quality dried cherries into U.S. markets, creating a trade imbalance that has harmed Michigan cherry growers.
As part of its justification report, the commission claimed it did not have enough specific data on dried tart cherry imports to include in its investigation. To fix this, Stabenow and Peters urged the commission to collect additional statistical information for better monitoring of dried cherry imports.
The request was approved and will go into effect July 1.
“Michigan’s world-famous cherry industry has struggled because of Turkey’s unfair trade practices,” Stabenow said in a statement. “This decision is a critical step in holding foreign competitors accountable and protecting our growers.”
“Unfair trade practices have completely devastated our cherry growers in Michigan," Peters added in a statement. "By previously not collecting all the available information on dried cherry imports, the ITC was deepening the misleading discrepancies and further compromising what should be a fair market. After pressing for action, I am pleased the ITC will now be gathering this additional information, so our growers and workers can compete on a level playing field.”
The announcement by both U.S. senators was welcomed news to Michigan Farm Bureau legislative counsel John Kran.
“This is a step forward for industries like tart cherries that are facing unfair competition from foreign imports,” Kran says. “While it doesn't solve the issue today, we hope it results in a more accurate reflection of what's actually happening on the ground. We appreciate Sen. Stabenow and Sen. Peters for continuing to champion this issue, as well as our representatives in the House, including Congressmen [Jack] Bergman, [Bill] Huizenga and [John] Moolenaar and others.”
Oceana County cherry grower Michael DeRuiter is a member of the Michigan Cherry Committee and a former member of the Cherry Marketing Institute. He and other growers were disappointed in the ITC’s prior ruling not in favor of U.S. dried cherry producers against Turkey, but he feels the announcement for tracking imports is a step in the right direction.
“Turkey has been operating in an environment of unfair trade practices, and the ITC’s ruling in January gave them the green light to keep it up,” DeRuiter says. “We need to get better data to prove what they are doing to us.
“We have had a lot of political support through this whole process of helping the industry to get back on its feet, and I know growers appreciate that. We just need a win to help keep our industry around for the next generation.”
As ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Stabenow has repeatedly pressed federal trade officials to enforce the rules to hold Turkey accountable.
In addition to her work to improve trade policies, she pushed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make a bonus purchase to provide immediate support for cherry growers affected by unfair foreign competition. She also authored a new provision in the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill to ensure imports meet the same standards as domestic products.
In December, Peters testified, along with Michigan cherry growers, at a commission hearing in Washington, D.C., on ensuring a level playing field and holding Turkish tart cherry exporters accountable.
Last year, Peters reintroduced the Self-Initiation Trade Enforcement Act with U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., to establish a task force within the U.S. Department of Commerce to investigate potential trade abuses throughout the international marketplace.
The bipartisan measure also would better ensure that the department has the resources needed to support American businesses looking to expand both at home and throughout the international marketplace.
Peters previously discussed the issue of cherry dumping directly with President Donald Trump, who called Peters’ legislation “a fantastic idea.” Peters toured Shoreline Fruit’s facilities in Williamsburg, Mich., last year and highlighted his legislation.