LANSING – The Michigan Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution sponsored by Sen. Darwin Booher urging President Barack Obama and the U.S. Agriculture secretary to begin the process of helping northwest and north central Michigan fruit growers with disaster assistance.
“A frost in early April destroyed an estimated 80 to 90 percent of Michigan’s tart cherry crop and up to 80 percent of the apple crop,” said Booher, R-Evart. “These are two of a wide variety of goods produced by Michigan’s agricultural community that have been devastated by the frost. They also represent the livelihoods of many Michigan families.”
Booher’s resolution notes that warm temperatures in early spring wreaked havoc on the state’s fruit crops, which generate more than $350 million annually. The warmth caused plants to sprout prematurely and put them at risk of damage when devastating frost occurred in early April.
According to the Cherry Marketing Institute, 2011’s tart cherry crop was about 260 pounds, and Michigan accounts for roughly 70 percent of the total U.S. crop. Due to the frost’s devastation, the National Cherry Festival reports that visitors to the July festival in Traverse City will likely eat tart cherries from other states.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers several programs to help farmers financially recover from a natural disaster,” Booher said. “This resolution calls on the president and the Agriculture secretary to begin the process to make federal assistance and low-interest loans available to these hard-hit farmers. It is about helping our local farmers as well as the thousands of Michigan families and workers who depend on these crops.”
In order for low-interest loans and other federal assistance to be available to the fruit growers, the affected fruit-growing areas must be declared disaster areas.
Senate Resolution 149 asks the president and U.S. Agriculture secretary to monitor closely the conditions of northwest and north central Michigan’s fruit crop to determine if disaster assistance is needed.