Mar 13, 2020Michigan asparagus growers hear trade updates
Michigan asparagus growers gathered March 12 in the Oceana County town of New Era to hear updates on trade, labor and new Extension research.
The meeting comes in the wake of a highly productive year.
“In 2019 we had no major frost events – a big crop, very high quality. And I have to say that it was probably the best production year that I’ve seen in the 30 years I’ve worked with asparagus,” said Norm Myers, manager of the asparagus division of the Michigan Agriculture Commodities Marketing Association (MACMA). “The quality was excellent, the yield was good. I cannot imagine we’re going to have a repeat of a year like that again.”
Michigan growers sell asparagus for processing as well as fresh sales. Myers said the group’s processing crop decreased from 10.9 million pounds in 2018 to 7.1 million pounds in 2019.
Fresh sales were much larger, with 15.49 million pounds, according to figures from the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, Myers said. Fresh and processing sales added up for a total of 22.3 million pounds. The poundage of total sales hit a 10-year high.
However, fresh sales prices were relatively low, Myers said. Growers remain very concerned about fresh asparagus imports that arrive in the middle of the Michigan harvest. The program for Oceana Asparagus Day included a presentation and discussion led by Aleks Schaefer, a lawyer and agricultural economist at Michigan State University (MSU), on the dynamics of anti-dumping and countervailing duty trade litigation.
“Mexico and Peru are not going to go away, much as we wish they would,” Myers said.
The group is also working on a $3.5 million USDA purchase of frozen cuts and tips, of either inventory from the 2019 harvest, or the coming 2020 crop.
Breaking with the practice of previous years, MACMA declined to publicly share its processing price or prices for 2020.
“Our committee decided they were going to follow the system that the apple industry – the MACMA Apple Division – used last year, which meant that they never published the price,” Myers said. “The thinking behind that is, we want our processors to be able to go out there and bid on contracts and not have their competition know that this is exactly what their price for raw product is going to be.”
The event also included talks on sustainable soil management and fertilization research by Utah State University’s Don Drost, a Michigan native. MSU researcher Dan Brainard spoke via video conference about asparagus emergence studies, and Mary Hausbeck spoke about disease management.
MSU’s new weed specialist Sushila Chaudhari, who said she goes by “Sushi” because it’s easy for folks to remember, was also introduced to the crowd.
Above, MACMA asparagus division manager Norm Myers prepares to speak at Oceana Asparagus Day. Photo: Stephen Kloosterman