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Friday, February 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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USDA reveals details of relief for cherry growers affected by Chinese tariffs

UPDATED: Thu., July 25, 2019

Jorge Bacquez harvests cherries on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, at Jake and Michelle Gutzwiler's orchard in Wenatchee, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Jorge Bacquez harvests cherries on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, at Jake and Michelle Gutzwiler's orchard in Wenatchee, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
By Mai Hoang Yakima Herald-Republic

U.S. cherry growers – including those in the Yakima Valley – negatively affected by retaliatory tariffs from China can receive up to $250,000 in direct payments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.

Cherry growers will receive 17 cents per pound. For producers who applied in 2018, the maximum payment will be $125,000. Those who apply in 2019 will receive up to $250,000.

The payments are part of a $16 billion package aimed at supporting agricultural producers affected by Chinese tariffs.

Currently, U.S. cherries exported to China are subject to multiple tariffs totaling 50%. The tariffs hurt Northwest cherry exports: China was the No. 1 export market for Northwest cherries in 2017, importing 3.2 million 20-pound boxes. That figure dropped to 1.7 million boxes in 2018. Similar numbers are expected for the 2019 crop.

Under a provision passed last month in Congress, all cherry growers are eligible for financial assistance as long as 75% of the business or individual grower’s income comes from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Previously payments were limited to those who had an average adjusted gross income for $900,000 or less.

“This is welcome news for Central Washington’s cherry growers,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican, in a news release sent Thursday. “Our farmers have been patient as the (Trump) administration negotiates a fair and reciprocal trade agreement with China, but our cherry producers have felt the real effects of the retaliatory tariffs.”

Newhouse worked with Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., to get the provision included in a disaster relief bill.

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

Other assistance

Local tree fruit growers will benefit from two other components of the USDA aid package. Through the food purchase and distribution program, the USDA will buy $1.4 billion in commodities for federal food and nutrition programs. Those purchases include $88 million from apple producers and $4 million from pear producers. The purchases will be made in four phases starting on Oct. 1. Deliveries of commodities will occur in January.

The USDA also allocated trade promotion funds for several regional tree fruit organizations. The Washington Apple Commission received an additional $1.5 million. Earlier, it had secured $8.5 million in a January allocation. Pear Bureau Northwest received $1.54 million to add to $564,170 it received previously. Finally, the Washington State Fruit Commission received $456,297; it received $709,203 previously.

While the funds don’t completely offset the negative impacts of tariffs, growers certainly will take the help, said Kate Tynan, senior vice president for the Northwest Horticultural Council, which represents the tree fruit industry in public policy issues, including trade.

“The impact has certainly been real,” she said, “The assistance here is appreciated.”

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