Marc Santucci, the owner of Santucci Farms in Traverse City shared a photo on July 26, 2016 sharing the news that he had been forced to dump 14% of this cherry crop, left to rot on the ground in order to comply with a market restriction enforced by the Cherry Industry Administrative Board (CIAB).
In an attempt to clarify the situation in a follow-up post, Santucci wrote,
“These cherries are tart cherries and have a one or two-day shelf life so they have to be used or processed immediately. Second, the cherries that are diverted cannot be sold or given away. Third, the applicable law that controls this is the agricultural marketing agreement act of 1937 as amended – farmers and processors vote every five years as to whether this program should continue. It is not [a] one man one vote, but the more cherries you produce the more votes you get. The large farmers are also processors so they control the vote and it is in their interest to continue this program.”
2016 was a fantastic year for not only Santucci Farms, but for the cherry industry as a whole! It was reported that the industry produced 100 million more pounds in 2016 than they had in 2015.
Perry Hedin, a representative of the Cherry Industry Administrative Board in DeWitt, Michigan reported that cherry growers were being paid higher prices over the past 20 years due in part to the order in question, which was first opted into by tart cherry processors and growers in 1995. When the rule was put in place, the goal was to add stability to the unpredictable yields that cherry growers can see from year-to-year.
While the larger growers are equipped to process their cherries, making use of the extra 14-29% of their crops in some way, such as freezing them, drying them, or selling them outside of the U.S., smaller growers are hit harder as they do not have access to the necessary processing equipment. They are instead forced to leave their crops to rot.
Santucci explained that he didn’t share his story in hope of receiving a bigger payment, but rather to raise awareness of the program and encourage people to write to Congress to effect change. He stated,
“I posted (the photo) because I want people to know that we sometimes do stupid things in this country in an attempt to do the right thing – we end up doing the wrong thing. Unless we can make the people who count understand and know what’s going on, we’ll never change it.”