Many of Michigan’s tart cherry producers are still reeling from some huge financial losses. A good part of that struggle is due to a pricing war with Turkey after it began dumping subsidized dried tart cherries on the US market which took a huge chunk out of the sales of domestic producer business. Poland is also blamed for selling heavily subsidized cheap cherries in the US. That means a few dozen Michigan cherry producers took the hit. Many of them are in SW Michigan.

Michigan is the largest tart cherry producing state in the US. But the trade war with Turkey was a surprise and monumental hit for the Michigan tart cherry producers.  The federal government purchased about $15 million dollars of cherries in 2019 but that wasn’t nearly enough to put a big dent in the losses.  Then again this May, the government bought another $20 million in tart cherries. It helped, but the industry is still struggling.

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The COVID-19 virus outbreak though may end up playing a role in helping producers recovery from two disastrous years. The Michigan Farm Bureau reports through its Michigan Farm News website that the Michigan-based Cherry Marketing Institute will be using a $125,000 grant from the federal government to target snack food manufacturers to include more cherries in their snack foods.

It is basing the new approach on a survey from the International Food Information Council which conducted a survey in April about changes in food consumption trends due to the virus. It is reporting that 32% of the more than 1,000 adults surveyed are snacking more since the virus outbreak. And 85% say their overall eating habits have changed. 60% say they are eating more at home.

Producers will be targeting all major snack food producers, some here in Michigan including Kellogg's. A jerky producer in Northern Michigan is already using cherries to turn out a cherry beef jerky which is growing in popularity.

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