WASHINGTON, D.C. — A key victory for cherry growers hurt by the unjustified retaliatory tariffs by China was secured last Thursday as U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Congressman Dan Newhouse (WA-4), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, supported legislation to help growers.
The provision passed the Senate as part of the bipartisan disaster supplemental budget bill and gives more cherry growers access to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Facilitation Program, which provides direct financial assistance to growers impacted by retaliatory tariffs.
“Getting this aid is critical to supporting the more than 2,500 cherry growers in the Pacific Northwest and the thousands of jobs they support,” said Cantwell.
“Cherry growers deserve the same aid available to other producers,” said Newhouse. “Central Washington producers want to grow and sell their high-quality cherries in strong domestic and international markets. This fix is essential to ensure growers can continue to operate in this upcoming growing season.”
China is the number one market for the state’s sweet cherries, and the industry has faced multiple rounds of retaliatory tariffs, hurting growers and threatening jobs. Cherry sales to China dropped from 3.2 million cartons in 2017 to 1.6 million cartons in 2018. Some estimate that tariffs cost growers between $60-80 million.
“China is a huge market – taking eleven percent of the Pacific Northwest cherry crop in 2017, before the 40 percent retaliatory tariff was imposed” said Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council.
On Aug. 27, 2018, the Trump administration announced a $12 billion Trade Aid Package for agricultural producers impacted by retaliatory tariffs – but failed to include sweet cherries in the package.
Since cherries are acutely affected by tariffs given that they are highly perishable and cannot be stored, Cantwell and Newhouse pushed the administration to make sweet cherry growers eligible for assistance.
They were successful in their efforts. The USDA officially added sweet cherries on Sept. 21, 2018.
Many cherry growers were still unable to qualify for aid because their unique business structures fall outside the boundaries of the Market Facilitation Program’s requirements.