Michigan fruit growers appeal for low-interest loans
The Michigan fruit industry in appealing to the state’s legislature for help in the wake of devastating losses to the fruit crop.
Phil Korson, president of the Cherry Marketing Institute, and Ken Nye, horticultural specialist at Michigan Farm Bureau, described the effort during the 57th annual Fruit Crop Guesstimate June 6 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Growers knew already in March that the tart cherry crop had been heavily damaged, Korson said, and apple growers knew the same by May 1, Nye said. So the effort began early to seek help in the wake of the expected loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in income by growers, handlers, packers, and processors.
A bill was introduced in the state legislature, was passed by the House, and moved to the Senate, where action was hoped for before the summer break started June 14.
Dawn Drake, manager of the Michigan Processing Apple Growers, summarized the basics of the bill:
—Growers would be eligible for loans up to $400,000 to cover their actual losses, minus proceeds from insurance payments. If insurance was available and the grower did not buy it, the loan amount would be reduced. Apple growers have insurance available, tart cherry growers don't, and sweet cherry growers have it available in two Michigan counties.
—Processors and handlers are eligible for loans up to $800,000, with a $1 million cap for those operating at multiple locations.
—Loans are for five years at 1 percent interest, with payments due annually starting after two years.
—The commercial lender keeps the credit risk and makes the decision on the loan size.
—The state is to provide partial payment of the cost of administration, origination fee, and part of the risk equal to 5 percent of the principal amount of the loan.
—Overall cost to the state is capped at $15 million.
Michigan is expected to have about 2.9 million bushels of apples, about 10 percent of a full crop, and about 12 million pounds of tart cherries, less than 5 percent of a normal crop.