A Congressional disaster relief bill headed for President Trump’s desk for his signature will provide more direct aid to U.S. cherry growers hurt by China’s retaliatory tariffs.
On June 3, the House of Representatives passed the disaster relief supplemental bill, which included a provision for cherry growers pushed by Northwest U.S. lawmakers Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.
The provision, which would remove the adjusted gross income maximum of $900,000 to determine eligibility, also was included in the version of the disaster relief passed by the Senate in late May.
The Cantwell-Newhouse provision would provide a one-time expansion of the eligibility guidelines of the Market Facilitation Program, according to the release. That will allow all cherry growers to receive financial assistance, as long as 75% of the business or individual grower’s income comes from farming, ranching or forestry related activities. The release said the one-time payments will be made available through the administration’s Trade Aid Package.
“Getting this aid is critical to supporting the more than 2,500 cherry growers in the Pacific Northwest and the thousands of jobs they support. While the priority for our growers remains an end to the trade disputes, all cherry growers must have access to this assistance,” Cantwell said in a news release.
Newhouse said that Northwest cherry growers “deserve the same aid available to other producers.”
“This fix is essential to ensure growers can continue to operate in this upcoming growing season while the administration continues their work to level the playing field with China,” Newhouse said in the release.
The release said Washington state cherry sales to China dropped from 3.2 million cartons in 2017 to 1.6 million cartons in 2018, and some estimates show tariffs cost Washington state cherry growers between $60-$80 million in lost profits.
Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, said once the provision becomes law, it is his understanding that growers could apply for funds retroactively for last season.
“The growers that thought that they weren’t eligible didn’t submit all the paperwork, so there has to be a new eligibility sign-up time frame for last season,” he said.
Powers said the new provision wasn’t the idea of the industry, but it is welcome.
“With this whole trade war, it doesn’t matter whether you’re small, medium or large,” he said. “You’re losing money as a result of U.S. policy and the resulting retaliation.”
If growers are shouldering the burden, Powers said any available funding for relief should go to all growers who are paying the price for the trade dispute.