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USDA buys cherries from Michigan farmers to help communities

TRAVERSE CITY (AP) — Some Michigan farmers say the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plan to buy tart cherries to feed communities and support farmers will help the industry as cold weather threatens their crops.
The department announced this week that it will buy $20 million worth of U.S. tart cherries, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported.
The Agricultural Marketing Service will purchase other fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and seafood products to distribute to communities amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Cherry Ke CFO Nels Veliquette said the purchase will be good for the industry and shelf-stable product.
Two weeks ago, southern Michigan saw some cold temperatures, Veliquette noted.
Crops were destroyed in southwest and south central Michigan.
“In a season where we’ve already seen some crop damage downstate, and this week looks like it could be a little nippy up here in our vulnerable stage, for the long term prospects for the cherry market, (the purchase) is a good thing,” Veliquette said.
Local farmers are excited that they can help Americans in need despite the challenges they are facing due to weather conditions.
“I think northern Michigan growers should be very happy that our fruit is going to help with the recovery aid for people around the country who are suffering because of COVID-19 and other related issues,” said Leelanau County cherry grower Ben LaCross.
Rep. “Jack Bergman has worked really hard on this,” Veliquette said of Bergman getting cherries added to the list of commodities used to feed Americans.
“He’s been the conduit to the USDA for a long time now. It’s just another example of working with the local farms, the local politicians, to actually get something done in Washington.”
Bergman noted that efforts to support the cherry industry are ongoing.
“I will continue coordinating with the (President Donald) Trump Administration to ensure our tart cherry industry can bounce back from this crisis,” Bergman said in a release.