Cantwell, Reichert, Murray & Newhouse Highlight Addition of Sweet Cherries to Trade Aid Program, Pledge to Continue Work to Ensure Relief
Starting September 24, sweet cherries will be eligible for assistance starting at 16 cents per pound
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) highlighted a decision by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to include sweet cherries in the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), which was established through USDA’s Trade Relief Plan, beginning on September 24. The MFP assists farmers hurt by unjustified retaliatory tariffs.
The decision comes after the members sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in August, calling on USDA to provide sweet cherries equal access to the relief measures being developed for U.S. agricultural commodities that have been negatively impacted by retaliatory tariffs. Sweet cherries will be eligible for MFP payments starting at a rate of 16 cents per pound.
“While the priority for our growers remains an end to the trade disputes, our cherry growers are estimating they will experience up to $86 million in damages from trade wars during the 2018 season, and they deserve the same assistance afforded to producers of other agricultural commodities that have been negatively impacted by retaliatory tariffs,” the members of Congress wrote to Secretary Perdue in August.
“Because sweet cherries are highly perishable, the season is over and damages from increased tariffs and prices are hitting growers, we urge you to implement the support our cherry growers are requesting,” the members of Congress added.
Following today’s announcement that sweet cherries will be eligible for the funding, the USDA will announce the specifics of the available aid in the coming weeks.
The full text of the letter the members sent to Secretary Perdue in August can be found HERE and below.
Dear Secretary Perdue:
We write to request that sweet cherries have equal access to any relief measures the Department of Agriculture provides for agricultural commodities impacted by retaliatory tariffs. While the priority for our growers remains an end to the trade disputes, our cherry growers are estimating they will experience up to $86 million in damages from trade wars during the 2018 season, and they deserve the same assistance afforded to producers of other agricultural commodities that have been negatively impacted by retaliatory tariffs.
The Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act (15 U.S.C 714) provides the Secretary of Agriculture broad authority to use the Commodity Credit Corporation to carry out almost any program that supports U.S. agriculture, including expanding domestic and international markets, providing disaster relief, supporting research and pest and disease management, and assisting farmers when crop prices drop or revenues decline. In addition, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 removed language that once limited the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ability to provide assistance to certain commodities. Therefore, we believe there are no limitations on how the USDA can assist our agricultural producers or what type of agricultural commodities qualify for assistance.
The 2,500 sweet cherry producers grow more cherries in the Pacific Northwest than any other region in the country. Sweet cherries have the shortest growing season of any tree fruit, which typically starts the beginning of May and ends by the middle of August. Sweet cherries are highly perishable, so the cherries must be picked and reach intended markets immediately. Sweet cherries cannot be stored. This harvest time sensitivity and short season creates tremendous pressure for the producer to sell cherries at any available price, even if it means financial losses.
On July 24, 2018, you announced that the USDA will use the Commodity Credit Corporation to provide assistance to agricultural producers that have experienced harm from the retaliatory tariffs that have been imposed on U.S. agricultural exports. You announced relief would come in three forms: a market facilitation program that will provide payments to producers that have and continue to experience damage from the ongoing trade wars, a food purchase and distribution program that will purchase surplus agricultural commodities, and a trade promotion program that will assist in developing new markets for agricultural products. Because sweet cherries are highly perishable, the season is over and damages from increased tariffs and prices are hitting growers, we urge you to implement the support our cherry growers are requesting.
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