Blueberry, cherry and asparagus growers being significantly impacted by “questionable trade practices” are gaining support from Congressman Bill Huizenga, who wants a field hearing to be held in West Michigan by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others in a bid to turn the situation around.
Citing “unsavory foreign trade practices” that are negatively impacting West Michigan farmers, growers, and producers, Huizenga has dispatched a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer requesting the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Commerce conduct such a field hearing in West Michigan to hear directly from area farmers, growers, and producers, who are being threatened by those trade practices.
Huizenga is specifically singling out asparagus, blueberry, and cherry growers who have suffered significantly due to the questionable trade practices and the inability to seek any form of redress.
In his letter, Huizenga says, “West Michigan is one of the most diverse agricultural communities in the nation,” but adds, “Currently, our seasonal and perishable specialty crop growers are forced to compete on a playing field that is tilted against them. Making matters worse, Michigan’s asparagus, blueberry, and cherry growers lack the proper ability to address the dubious trade practices being used by other nations. Holding a hearing in West Michigan would give our farmers the ability to share how these illicit trade practices negatively impact our economy at the local level, disrupt free market competition, and threaten the viability of family farming.”
Here is the complete context of Huizenga’s letter, sent on Friday:
January 17, 2020
The Honorable Robert E. Lighthizer
U.S. Trade Representative
600 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20508
Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:
As the second most agriculturally diverse state in the nation, Michigan is home to more than 300 different commodities. With one in four Michigan jobs supported by agriculture, it is the second largest industry in the state and has a $100 billion impact annually. Specifically, my district in West Michigan is a nationwide leader in specialty crop production, including asparagus, blueberries, and cherries.
When Michigan farmers have a level playing field, they can compete with anyone in the world. However, foreign competitors are flooding our markets with heavily subsidized products priced well below market value to undercut American farmers and growers.
For instance, Michigan tart cherry growers, which produce 75-percent of the domestic crop annually, are currently experiencing record low prices. From 2016-2018, imports of dried tart cherries rose by 1 million pounds. West Michigan is also a leader in the domestic asparagus industry. According to the USDA, imports of asparagus rose by 46-percent from 2008 to 2018. As the leader in blueberry production, growers in West Michigan and throughout the nation are being negatively impacted by unfair imports.
Thank you for your recent commitment to review available remedies to address unfair pricing in the U.S. market, which are harming U.S. producers of seasonal and perishable products. I also thank you for your commitment to hold field hearings to hear firsthand from producers on these trade issues that are having a negative impact on our economy at a very local.
As a national leader in seasonal production, I urge the USTR, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Agriculture to also hold a field hearing in West Michigan. Hearing directly from West Michigan farmers and growers will add invaluable perspective on the trade issues that are threatening our communities, family farms, and their livelihoods.
As West Michigan’s representative, I understand how critical it is that our farmers and growers have the opportunity to be heard and to compete on a level playing field. That is why I believe it is imperative for a field hearing to be held in West Michigan.
Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to your response.
Member of Congress