W MI asparagus farmers undercut by Mexico, Peru

Michigan

HESPERIA, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan is a top producer of asparagus, but recently some farmers have had to throw their entire crop out.

The state ranks second in the nation for asparagus production, but trade agreement changes may change that.

“Oceana County is big in asparagus. It has been for nearly 60 years,” Denise Pagura of Slocum Farms near Hesperia said Wednesday.

Pagura, whose family shifted from growing Christmas trees to asparagus years ago, said the Michigan industry is in trouble. She explained to 24 Hour News 8 that it’s because farms from Mexico and Peru sell asparagus for half the price that Michigan farmers offer.

She said she began noticing the change about two years ago as lawmakers started updating trade legislation. Farmers like Pagura used to sell everything they produced, but she says that’s no longer the case.

“We had a future. We were looking forward to our future, to our children’s future and our grandchildren’s future,” Pagura said. “Today? We are not looking at that. We are looking at survival.”

Trade agreement changes no longer protect specialty crops like asparagus, Pagura said.

“Growers are rethinking their future in this industry because unless we can get our government to take specialty crops and the American farmer in general seriously in our plight, we will not be in business,” she explained.

Pagura said that when Michigan farmers total up costs of food safety regulations, paying and housing visiting workers, property taxes and other costs, they can’t compete with imported asparagus. She said that some nearby farms never harvested because they couldn’t pay for labor.

Slocum farms and dozens of other state asparagus farmers invited local, state, and federal leaders to a discussion Friday to ask for help leveling the field.

“Allowing someone to come in and dump … the asparagus into our market for below-production costs, we are not able to survive. We are basically being put out of business,” Pagura said.

Pagura said the trade war is clear. Peruvian and Mexican asparagus prices spike back up right after Michigan’s harvest is over, she said.

“Once that goes back up, it’s obvious to see that they’re producing that asparagus and flooding our markets to basically put us out of business because they’re making a lot more money the rest of the year. There’s no reason that they have to do that to us,” she said.

The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Todd Greiner Farms packing facility, 1938 W. Jackson Road, Hart.

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