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Michigan asparagus growers receive new price settlement
By KEVIN WALKER
Michigan Correspondent

LANSING, Mich. — Asparagus growers in Michigan got a boost last month after the Michigan Agricultural Marketing Assoc.’s (MACMA) asparagus division helped broker an agreement to raise the price paid to growers.

Eight out of nine processors in Michigan have agreed to pay growers 59 cents per pound for asparagus with sales conditions, or 57 cents cash on delivery.

Last year the price paid to growers fell to 48 cents per pound, and growers complained they couldn’t continue to grow asparagus at that price.

“Last year was the first time we never had an agreement on price,” said Ken Nye, manager of MACMA’s asparagus division.

“We made far more progress on price this year. It was very important that this one handler come back,” Nye said of Honee Bear Canning in Lawton, Mich.

The price fell so low because Honee Bear Canning decided not to participate in MACMA negotiations. This year they did participate, hoping to improve the quality, and stabilize the supply of asparagus. Negotiations broke down last year because reaching an agreement with some processors and not others would have put some processors at a competitive disadvantage, Nye said.

Nye said that negotiations be-tween growers and processors have been going on for the past 30 seasons, and that last year was an aberration. “We’re back at normal,” Nye said.

Rodney Winkel, an asparagus grower in Berrien County, Mich., and chairman of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, agreed.

“It’s super important for growers and processors,” Winkel said. “It sets a base in terms of price.”

Winkel said that last year was “very chaotic,” and that growers and processors realized it was important to reach an amicable agreement for everyone’s sake.

“Unless we work together this thing is going to disappear,” Winkel said.

Winkel said that last year the price per pound of asparagus went as low as 45 cents, well below the break even point for growers.

In recent years asparagus growers have had a harder time getting what they consider a good price for their crop, because of the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA), a law passed in 1991 that eliminates duties on imported products from several countries in South America.

Last year Winkel complained that the ATPA was having a major negative impact on the asparagus industry in Michigan.

According to Nye stability in the market is important for growers, because crowns and seeds must be planted years ahead of time; and growers, therefore, must have some confidence in what the market is going to be like a couple years down the road.

This farm news was published in the May 3, 2006 issue of Farm World.

5/3/2006