cherries

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Northwest cherry growers are eligible for federal payments and financial relief under a program aimed at supporting American agricultural producers affected by Chinese tariffs.

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-4th District, and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., secured the provision to include cherry growers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced details of the $16 billion package last week.

Market facilitation program payments will be provided to sweet cherry producers at a rate of 17 cents per pound, said USDA officials.

For producers who applied in 2018, the payment limit will be $125,000. For those who applied in 2019, the payment limit will be $250,000.

“This is very welcome news for central Washington’s cherry growers,” said Newhouse. “Our farmers have been patient as the administration negotiates a fair and reciprocal trade agreement with China, but our cherry producers have felt the real effects of the retaliatory tariffs.”

“This announcement is a big win for Washington state cherry growers, farmers throughout the state, and the thousands of jobs they support,” said Cantwell. “While the priority remains an end to trade to disputes, it’s critical that our growers get access to this assistance while harmful tariffs remain in place.”

On Aug. 27, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $12 billion trade aid package for agricultural producers impacted by retaliatory tariffs, but the package did not include sweet cherries.

Newhouse, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, and Cantwell, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, pushed the administration to make sweet cherry growers eligible for assistance. Sweet cherries were added Sept. 21, 2018.

However, many cherry growers still were unable to qualify for aid because their business structures fall outside the boundaries of the market facilitation program’s requirements. Newhouse and Cantwell secured a provision in the bipartisan disaster aid funding bill, passed in May 2019, to increase access to the program for sweet cherry growers, as long as 75 percent of the business or individual grower’s income comes from farming-, ranching- or forestry-related activities.

China is the No. 1 market for Washington state sweet cherries, and the industry has faced multiple rounds of retaliatory tariffs that have hurt growers throughout the state and threatened jobs, said Newhouse’s office.

Washington state cherry sales to China dropped from 3.2 million cartons in 2017 to 1.6 million cartons in 2018. Some people estimate tariffs could cost Washington state cherry growers between $60 million and $80 million in lost profits.

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