SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Farmer delegates at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 104th Convention approved a Michigan-proposed policy resolution calling for AFBF to convene a Specialty Crop Trade Summit in 2023.
Michigan Farm Bureau board member Ben LaCross, a cherry producer and processor from Suttons Bay who introduced the proposal, said the concept is modeled after the highly successful national Federal Milk Marketing Order Forum, proposed by MFB members two years ago.
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“We saw the unity that came out of that forum — the solutions and the good outcomes for the dairy producers of the state of Michigan — and that led us to start thinking about whether American Farm Bureau could bring affected specialty crops together, who are affected by imported fruit and vegetables coming into the United States and harming our domestic markets,” LaCross said.
U.S. specialty crop growers have faced increased pressure from foreign produce on U.S. store shelves due to artificial trade restrictions on U.S. fruit and vegetable products, and highly subsidized imports that are severely undercutting domestic production.
Specifically, the resolution calls for:
“We support AFBF organizing a Specialty Crop Summit, focused on trade impacts within the specialty crop industry. Desired outcomes of the summit should include policy recommendations and strategies to support American specialty crop producers.”
According to LaCross, several specialty crop commodity groups, including cherry, asparagus and blueberry growers in Michigan, and Florida tomato growers, have been unsuccessful in their attempts to seek relief through the International Trade Commission, including Section 201, 232 and 301 investigations due to the bureaucratic and cumbersome nature of the process.
“We've all heard about the challenges that the cherry industry is facing with imports from Turkey. It's really devastating our markets and reducing grower returns to really unsustainable levels for our tart cherry farmers,” LaCross said,
A tart cherry industry-funded trade complaint with the ITC filed two years ago, accused Turkey of dumping and unfair trade practices, which was ultimately rejected.
“So we're really pleased that American Farm Bureau delegates agreed on this specialty crop trade Summit,” LaCross said. “We’re hoping that through the power of Farm Bureau and the unity that we can have, not as individual commodities but as a force together, we can come up with opportunities to counteract those unfair trade practices and find solutions to help our farmers into the future.”
LaCross said there’s an urgent need to hold the Specialty Crop Trade Summit in 2023, noting that specialty crop producers can't afford to continue producing a crop they can't sell, or have to sell well below the cost of production anymore.
“It's imperative that we do something to help, especially for Michigan, asparagus, blueberries and tart cherries, find ways to expand domestic markets, return a fair price to our growers and counteract some of these imported fruits and vegetables that are coming in and affecting our markets,” LaCross concluded.