Similar to the 2009 crop, this year's large harvest pushed cherry prices downward, although not quite as far as in that recessionary year. That's likely because the cherry market is larger now, with new supplies flowing into Asian markets, such as South Korea.
Nevertheless, at least one farmer chose to leave a significant chunk of his cherries on the tree as a result of lower than expected prices.
"I can't afford to pick it," said Scott Sandum, owner of 3Z's Ranch, set in the scenic hills above Lake Chelan in the town of Manson. "That's pretty sad, especially when you look at the quality that's in the tree."
Well, sad is as sad insures, thanks to the government crop insurance program that dates to...(you guessed?) The New Deal;
Insurance policies are sold and completely serviced through 16 approved private insurance companies. Independent insurance agents are paid sales commissions by the companies. The insurance companies' losses are reinsured by USDA, and their administrative and operating costs are reimbursed by the federal government.Of which, Mr. Sandum (in the Seattle Times piece) seems well aware;
"I'm hoping to make enough money off of my insurance to pay for this year's growing costs," Sandum said. "[Those] are between $25,000 and $30,000."
In contrast to this year, Sandum grossed $350,000 in 2011 from his 20 acres of cherry trees.
Desmond O'Rourke, founder of Belrose Inc., a fruit market-analysis company based in Pullman, said it's unusual for growers to voluntarily not pick their fruit, but notes that it happened in 2009. "If these large crops continue, it could become the norm," he said.Too much food. Fortunately we're insured!