HART, Mich. — Michigan asparagus growers say for the second year in a row, they are battling for their livelihoods against farmers in Peru and Mexico.
In recent weeks fresh-pack growers in Michigan have been asked to stop delivering asparagus due to a price drop in the market.
The market is currently flooded with imported asparagus crop from Peru and Mexico lowering the price below cost of production for domestic growers.
Foreign countries are currently allowed to dump crops in U.S. markets during the short American harvest seasons.
"For the last three years, right in the middle of our season, we have seen a huge spike in imports," said John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board.
"I don't know if they're trying to drive us out of business," Bakker said. "It appears that may be the case."
Michigan Asparagus Farms produce 20 million pounds of asparagus each year. The Michigan Asparagus industry is approaching its 60 year anniversary. It's a major crop for communities along Lake Michigan with a season that begins in mid-May and continues into July.
This year, some growers are done harvesting. A decision that will prevent them from losing more money.
"Right now we have grower who are ending the harvest about half way through," Bakker said.
Michigan growers need to sell their crop for $1.70 a pound to break even. Bakker says at the beginning of June asparagus grown in Mexico and Peru was being imported to the U.S. for about $1 a pound.
"We can hardly get it out of the field for that price much less get it packed, boxed up, sorted and shipped," he said.
Michigan asparagus farmers urge consumers to look for a rubber band around the fresh asparagus which indicates the state and country of origin.
A statement from the farmers read:
"By bringing together Government officials, State and Local leaders, Growers and Packers, we hope to bring awareness of the problems we are facing in the Asparagus Industry and find solutions that will allow us to continue to support our families as American Asparagus Farmers.
The New NAFTA Trade Agreement (USMCA) does not consider Specialty Crops and allows the import of foreign asparagus into domestic markets below our fair market value and below cost of production in the U.S."
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