Tart cherry tariff petition moves forward following ITC decision

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Cherry farmer Nels Veliquette checks a box of bumble bees in a tart cherry orchard north of Acme, Michigan Friday, May 24, 2019. Using bees to pollinate the buds on the trees is just part of the cost of producing a healthy and successful crop.

The U.S. International Trade Commission has determined there is a "reasonable indication" that imports of tart cherries from Turkey have harmed the U.S. industry.

The 5-0 unanimous decision moves forward a petition from five tart cherry processors requesting that the federal government place up to a 650% antidumping and countervailing tariff on dried tart cherries from Turkey. The tart cherry industry annually contributes millions to Northern Michigan's economy.

"It's what we expected based on the evidence we presented," said Nels Veliquette, a cherry grower whose family is one of two that owns Traverse City's Shoreline Fruit LLC, one of the cherry processors that filed the lawsuit. "The positive news is good, but this a long process. It's a little mile marker on our journey."

The petitioners claim Turkey, the largest producer of tart cherries in the world, heavily subsidizes its growers and processors, who then are able to sell their fruits far below fair market value. Imports from Turkey are up 259% from 2016.

The federal investigation now moves onto the U.S. Commerce Department, which will make a preliminary determination on the request expected to be announced July 18. If it determines Turkey is providing subsidies to its producers or exporters, it will instruct the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to begin collecting cash deposits on imports of dried tart cherries at the subsidy rates. Antidumping rates could follow on Oct. 1, as well.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, applauded the International Trade Commission's preliminary determinations Friday.

“Michigan grows more tart cherries than any other state in the country,” she said in a statement. “This is a big step forward to help protect our world famous cherry industry from unfair foreign competition.”