Oregon sweet cherry growers have asked their governor to call the 2023 season a disaster and help them recover from a market that drove prices below the cost of production.

“I don’t know what the governor is going to do, but we had to get something started,” said Mike Doke, executive director of Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers.

On behalf of the growers, state Rep. Jeff Helfrich, a Hood River Republican, sent a letter in early August to Gov. Tina Kotek asking her to issue a disaster declaration, giving them access to resources that could help them bounce back from a cherry glut caused by a market overlap with California producers.

This year, Oregon growers received average returns of 54 cents per pound, but they spent 94 cents per pound to grow the cherries, Doke said. Overall, the cherry industry left between 25 and 40 percent of the crop unharvested, while most small growers did the same for more than half their fruit, he said. 

The organization will compile more formal reports in September.

This season, California’s cherry harvest was later than normal, causing an overlap with Oregon and Washington.

The Washington cherry industry is considering asking for a similar remedy once harvest finalizes, said B.J. Thurlby, president of the Washington State Fruit Commission.

by Ross Courtney