Michigan farmers are now reaping the unpleasant harvest of our strange "Summer in March." The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that the United States Department of Agriculture puts the 2012 losses for apples, asparagus, blueberries, sweet & tart cherries, peaches and juice grapes in Michigan at $223.5 million. That's 62% of these commodities' 5-year average combined value of $359.6 million.
In the Detroit News feature, Michigan Farm Bureau commodity specialist Ken Nye explains:
"This is the worst that Michigan has experienced in the past 50 years at least," Nye said. "I don't know how far you'd have to go back to find something similar."The numbers are pretty devastating:
Michigan produces three-fourths of the nation's tart cherries, used primarily in pies and other food products, and 20 percent of its sweet cherries, a popular table fruit. It ranks third nationally in apple production, behind Washington and New York.
The state is no stranger to spring cold snaps, and experts say orchards remain vulnerable throughout May. The tart cherry crop was a near-total loss a decade ago. What sets this year apart is not just the severity of the damage but the variety of fruits affected.
"We've had freezes before, but you'd always have something come through OK," said David Rabe, who grows apples, tart cherries, peaches and asparagus in Oceana County. "This year, just about everything's devastated. Asparagus might be the only crop we can harvest."
- Apples: 90 percent loss, $110 million
- Blueberries: 10 percent loss, $15 million
- Juice Grapes: 85 percent loss, $18 million
- Peaches: 95 percent loss, $14 million
- Sweet Cherries: 80 percent loss, $15 million
- Tart Cherries: 90 percent loss, $50 million
- Asparagus: 10 percent loss, $1.5 million