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USDA plans buy of cherries to counter Turkish exports

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The USDA has announced a special purchase of U.S.-produced commodities, including tart cherries, many of which are grown in Michigan.

The May 23 announcement by USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach said the department will buy up to $177.5 million in food commodities for federal nutrition programs, using a new streamlined process. The American-grown products will used to provide for families that are in need.

“USDA is taking a more proactive approach in order to better serve our customers, ensure timely purchases for federal nutrition programs and deliver value for the American taxpayer through safe and affordable American made products,” Ibach said.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service buys a variety of food commodities each year to support the National School Lunch Program, Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and Emergency Food Assistance Program. USDA also makes emergency food purchases for distribution to victims of natural disasters.

The announcement said under the new process, the department will proactively monitor market conditions and provide a more “predictable and consistent” process for determining when to make such purchases.

For the first purchase under this new regimen, USDA will buy up to: $25 million of pork products, $25 million of tart, or sour, cherries, $22 million for dried peas, $20 million for cheddar cheese, $18 million for clingstone peaches, $15.5 million for processed tomatoes, $12 million for dried plums, $11 million for dried pinto beans, $10 million for lentils, $9.4 million for wild blueberries, $8.5 million for Highbush blueberries and $1 million for red raspberries.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said a “flood of imports” from Turkey is harming the success of Michigan’s cherry industry. “I’ve called on the USDA to protect our cherry growers from unfair competition by approving a bonus buy, and I urge you to take action on their request,” she said shortly before the announcement.

The day after the buy was made public, she praised the purchase for its support of the state’s tart cherry growers.

“This is a very big deal for the tart cherry industry,” said Phil Korson, president of the Cherry Marketing Institute. “As we have struggled to deal with cheap imports, our domestic inventories have increased, which have depressed our growers’ prices. This purchase will help remove some of that surplus inventory and put more money back in growers’ pockets.

“We appreciate the leadership from Senator Stabenow and our elected officials to help us get this over the finish line.”

Stabenow said while the special purchase was an “important first step” in reducing the impact of the trade imbalance in some commodities, trade officials needed to deal with this issue long-term.

She added she has talked with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chief Agricultural Negotiator Gregg Doud about the issue and urged them to accept a cherry growers’ petition to revoke Turkey’s duty-free access to the U.S. market.

Vendors interested in selling food to the USDA can get started by going online to or by calling 202-720-4517.