USDA Predicts Cherry Grow Forecast, Local Growers Don’t See Same Numbers

The USDA just released their predicted forecast for the cherry crop but local growers don’t completely agree.

So we dug deeper to find out if those numbers are realistic and true for Northern Michigan.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service report predicted the state’s tart cherry production will be 60 percent larger than last year’s forecast at 264 million pounds.

With sweet cherries up 27 percent at almost 24,000 tons.

The USDA used to send teams from orchard to orchard measuring blossoms and the number of fruits, now they survey growers over the phone to get their estimates.

“I guess the USDA surveyed earlier than usual so if you would have asked us four weeks ago, we thought we had what we call a bumper crop in the industry,” said Nikki Rothwell, MSU Extension specialist and coordinator at the Northwest Horticultural Research Center. “We thought that the tart cherry crop was really, really big and I think since that survey was really originally given, those numbers have gone down and growers are thinking they have a smaller crop than that original estimate.”

While the numbers might not be quite as high as the ones predicted by the USDA, growers here in Northern Michigan say this year’s crop is about quality over quantity.

“Last year we struggled with quality because of all the rain that we had during the growing, especially the harvest season,” said Mark Miezio, president at Cherry Bay Orchards. “This year we’re hoping they’re a little dryer than they were last year.”

“We believe that not a huge crop is going to be good for the cherry number,” said Greg Shooks of Shooks Farms. “One I think we’re going to be able to get more nutrients to that cherry, more sugars for a better juice product and also a better frozen product, also it’s not so stressful on the trees.”

But nothing’s sure until the trees are ready to harvest in about three weeks.

“My gut tells me it’s going to be under last year’s number though,” said Shooks. “I’m just not seeing the volume that we did last year so I am expecting a high quality cherry crop this year.”

Source: 9 & 10 News

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