WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the details of a $16 billion package aimed at supporting American agriculture producers affected by unjustified retaliatory tariffs by China. The Market Facilitation Program, which provides direct payments and financial relief to producers, included aid for Northwest cherry growers, thanks to a provision secured by Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
Payments will be provided to sweet cherry producers at a rate of 17 cents per pound. 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 Rep. 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. Thank you, Secretary Perdue, for working with us to provide them with this much-needed assistance.”
“This announcement is a big win for Washington state cherry growers, farmers throughout the state, and the thousands of jobs they support,” Senator Cantwell said. “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 failed to include sweet cherries. Representative Newhouse, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, and Senator Maria Cantwell, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, pushed the Administration to make sweet cherry growers eligible for assistance. Sweet cherries were officially added by USDA on Sept. 21, 2018.
However, many cherry growers were still unable to qualify for aid because their unique business structures fall outside the boundaries of the Market Facilitation Program’s (MFP) requirements. Rep. Newhouse and Sen. Cantwell secured a provision in the bipartisan disaster aid funding bill, passed in May 2019, to increase access to the MFP for sweet cherry growers, as long as 75% of the business or individual grower’s income comes from farming, ranching, or forestry related activities.
China is the number one market for Washington state sweet cherries, and the industry has faced multiple rounds of retaliatory tariffs, which have hurt growers throughout the state and threatened jobs. Washington state cherry sales to China dropped from 3.2 million cartons in 2017 to 1.6 million cartons in 2018. Some estimate that tariffs could cost Washington state cherry growers between $60-80 million in lost profits.