Stateside
1:47 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Why were 30 million pounds of tart cherries left to rot on the ground?

Michigan Radio
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Get this, 75% of the nation's tart cherries are grown in Michigan, most of that in the northwest Lower Peninsula.

But every year the industry that brings us cherry pies and the Traverse City Cherry Festival faces restrictions set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ron French, the Senior Writer for Bridge Magazine, said because so many tart cherries are grown in such a small area, the weather can greatly affect the crop. So the USDA puts a limit on the percentage of Michigan's tart cherry crop that can be sold so prices don't swing too dramatically.

“The result of that is that in some years as much as one half or more in cherries produced in Michigan is left rotting on the ground,” French said.

Most growers favor restrictions, but one food processing company in Elk Rapids is suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

French said Elk Rapids is hoping to remove the restrictions on cherries completely.

Tart cherries are the ones that come in baked goods, they're bought in cans, and they're used as ingredients. Those who can freeze cherries do not have a problem with the restrictions as frozen cherries can last 3-4 years. Those who can cherries however are hurt because canned cherries only have a shelf life of one year. Once that year is up, no more cherries.

*Listen to full show above.