In olden times, when I was a full-time farm broadcaster, there were fruit crop failures in Southwest Michigan. I recall that, on more than one occasion, growers would be commiserating among themselves regarding a crop failure, or a harvest that was just so-so. For some reason, the emphasis was on the relative dependability of the world according to the tart cherry. Veteran growers would tell us then – - and maybe now, too – - that occasionally there would be back to back good cherry years. They would also say, “don’t look for a third consecutive good year – - it’s not going to happen. Of course, the good harvest, particularly if it started in Berrien County and prevailed all the way up into the Traverse City neighborhood, would be a glut on the market. So, what to do? What they did then, and I’d hope they still do, unless a better alternative has come along – - what they did then was to put a portion of that second bumper harvest in storage. Cherries will keep a long time – - long enough to be ready and fresh for the market the following year, when the harvest wasn’t so good.
Even if that still works, and some of last year’s harvest went into storage and will be available to satisfy the market this fall, that doesn’t say anything about apples, peaches, grapes, and so on.
So, Michigan’s fruit and vegetable producers – - the specialty crop producers – - need something besides good luck, to stay in business. Those vines and trees demand a lot of nutrition, and a lot of insect and disease control, even in a lousy crop year. A lot of farmers set aside money in a good year, to be ready for the bad year that’s almost sure to come.
Folks in Washington seem to be taking seriously the notion that specialty crop producers need insurance of some kind, in the general ballpark of the way things are for producers of corn, soybeans, cotton, and so on. Michigan’s Senator Debbie Stabenow, who chairs the Senate Ag Committee, has been emphasizing
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