Researcher calls tart cherry cost of production study a reality check

Rising costs could put the future of tart cherry production in jeopardy in the nation’s largest producing state. 

Michigan State University Extension Specialist Nikki Rothwell tells Brownfield their latest survey cuts through wishful thinking.

“It’s fairly sobering, some of the results that we did find,” she says.  “Growers have not been making good profits lately and so maybe also this can be used as that reality check of what are the next steps for my farm?”

Rothwell says invasive pests, unprecedented weather, and Turkish imports continue to challenge the profitability of growers.  Switching to another commodity comes down to cash flow.

“I just worry that we’re going to see the number of farms disappear and then the number of acres in farmland disappear because if you’ve had economic troubles in the past, a really good way to ensure that you’re going to be safe is to sell some really nice water view property,” she says.

The 2022 survey found tart cherries cost more than 40 cents per pound to grow while the USDA average price in Michigan was only 32 cents from 2017 to 2021, with a low of 14 cents in 2019.

Researchers say costs could be even higher for growers with smaller yields outside of the sample group.

Michigan is home to 75 percent of the nation’s tart cherry acres.

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