We reached out to our Editorial Advisory Board to get a pulse on the fruit and nut industry this year. This year, we asked our advisory board members how tariffs have affected their own businesses or growers with whom they specifically work with. Here’s a collection of their responses:
Elizabeth Wittenbach, Wittenbach Orchards, LLC, Belding, MI
As a fruit grower, it’s difficult to quantify the cost of tariffs. There’s a lag between production and harvest and when we are paid. We know that tariffs depress the export market; it’s just a matter of how much. The uncertainty leads to protective action, to decisions to hold back from investments because we’re no longer sure how much money will come in for next year’s production. Without investing in equipment and technology, you lose your competitive edge. Sadly, it seems likely that trade issues will continue to thwart a healthy export market as the threat of more tariffs hangs over agriculture.
Jon Clements, Educator, University of Massachusetts Extension, UMass Cold Spring Orchard, Belchertown, MA
I don’t really expect much impact here on our industry, as it has become primarily a retail/direct market. I don’t know any apples (or cherries) that go to China, for example. I guess the greatest impact would be an overall drain on our economy, which might reduce expendable income for non-necessities like going apple picking? Top issues here: regulations and recordkeeping, labor, lack of local labor for smaller jobs/retail where H2-A does not fit.
Kevin D. Moffitt, President & CEO, Pear Bureau Northwest, Milwaukie, OR
Pears have an increased tariff in China this year which has cut our shipments there by about 90%. In addition, the tariffs on apples and grapes in China and other counties may end up causing more of that fruit to be shipped domestically creating more competition for pears in the US market.
These tariffs are an ever-shifting issue with talks ongoing. With a new government in Mexico and ongoing tensions with China, it is hard to say if things will get worked out quickly or dragged on well into 2019. We have received some USDA pear purchases for trade mitigation and have also submitted an application to the USDA for trade mitigation funds to be used in export markets to help offset the tariffs. But if it drags on it will hurt pear shipments directly and possibly indirectly if other commodities need to sell more in the U.S. market.
John Amarel, Partner, REASON Farms, Yuba City, CA
There’s not much to say about tariffs. Yes, it has slowed the movement of all agricultural goods, we knew this would happen. When we get through this it will be better for the USA as a whole. Maybe we will be able to make up for the lost ground. Kind of like it’s always darkest before dawn!
Nikki Rothwell, Michigan State University District Horticulturist, Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center Coordinator, Traverse City, MI
I think growers have been very concerned about the trade and tariff issue. There is just a lot of unknowns out there. I have not heard of much directly, but I am just getting into the winter meeting season. Tart cherry growers have been concerned about imported concentrate coming into the U.S. The important concentrate is much cheaper than the U.S .made product. The U.S. tart cherry industry has also been funding promotion and health benefit research, and it is frustrating to see people learning about the healthy things in cherries but buying foreign product. That is the main issue we have been hearing about in tart cherry country.