Biden spoke of a “difficult year” when visiting a cherry farm in County Antrim

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Cross the city –President Joe Biden learned on Saturday that many Michigan cherry growers are having a tough season due to volatile weather conditions after visiting a cherry farm in County Antrim.

Juliette King McAvoy, daughter of King Orchards co-owner John King, spoke to Biden, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and US Democrats Debbie Stabenow of Lansing and Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township about the drought and recent heavy rains that damaged the crop of cherries.

At one point, Biden asked about the differences between two types of cherry trees in the orchard.

King McAvoy told him that the trees would normally be “laden with fruit,” but some branches fell.

“It’s been a tough year,” she said, adding that the farmers really don’t know how to deal with the volatile weather.

Michigan’s tart cherry harvest for this season is estimated at 65.6 million pounds, down 5% from the 69.3 million pounds harvested in 2020, according to the US Department of Agriculture. But the two years marked a two-thirds drop from the 201 million pounds harvested in 2018 and a smaller but substantial drop from the 170 pounds in 2019.

Michigan is the nation’s dominant state for tart cherry production.

The state’s warm April led to a devastating early bloom when a multi-day polar trough in May froze buds and prevented bees from pollinating. The tart cherries were the most affected. They were already down by about two-thirds, the worst in consecutive years, said Nikki Rothwell, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center, 10 miles north of Traverse City on the Leelanau Peninsula.

This was followed by four days of rain, ending last Sunday, which split the cherries, mostly sweet ones. Farmers and industry watchers have used words such as “demoralizing”, “devastating” or even “anger”.

Biden was then introduced to some of the farm’s cherry pickers.

After the visit, the President greeted a crowd gathered behind ropes as visitors and the curious gathered there. A heavy law enforcement presence and military overflights have given clues to Biden’s trip to the farm despite the lack of a public notice on the location of the president’s destination.

The helicopter and motorcade trip to the Cherry Farm came after Biden landed at Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City at around 12:35 p.m.

At the airport, Biden spoke to Whitmer as well as senators and at one point the governor and president held hands, according to the pool report. After the rally broke up, Biden had a long discussion with Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers.

This is the Democratic president’s third visit to Michigan in less than six months in office. Republican predecessor Donald Trump did not make his third trip to Michigan until March 2019, more than two years after starting his presidency.

Biden’s latest visit is part of a nationwide tour linked to recovery from the coronavirus and encouraging unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated.

President Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One as it departs Saturday, July 3, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.  Biden is on his way to Traverse City, Michigan.  (AP Photo / Alex Brandon)

Grand Traverse County, where Traverse City is located, has one of the highest vaccination rates in Michigan with 68.1% of adults 16 and older having received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine – close to l Biden’s goal of 70% by July 4. That compares to the statewide average of 56.5% through Friday.

Vice President Kamala Harris was scheduled to make a similar trip to Detroit on Monday to encourage vaccinations, but that visit was postponed after heavy flooding in the city over the weekend.

Biden’s trip comes after the White House admitted last week that it would likely miss its goal of partially vaccinating at least 70% of American adults by July 4. Instead, the country will likely reach 70% of immunizations for Americans 27 and older by Sunday.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have reached Biden’s goal of 70% partially immunized, but Michigan is not in that group.

The White House also mentioned that the bipartisan Senate had spoken of a pre-trip infrastructure spending program, but the topic was not addressed during the Cherry Farm visit.

Before a rally of reporters after the tour, Whitmer was asked if she had spoken to Biden about infrastructure projects specifically for Michigan that the package could fund.

“I’m the governor of ‘fixing the damn roads’ so I talk about infrastructure with everyone, including the president,” she said. “We haven’t had a conversation about specific projects, but certainly with the incredible flooding we suffered a week and a half ago, infrastructure is on everyone’s mind.”

Michigan saw “underinvested infrastructure collide with climate change” when Wayne County highways were flooded, Whitmer said.

“So this is an important moment,” she said. “And that’s why this infrastructure package is so important. It’s also why I got President Rocky Road Fudge from Mackinac Island for his trip here.”

Biden was last in Michigan on May 18, when he visited a Ford Motor Co. truck plant in Dearborn and took a ride in the electric F-150 Lightning. Prior to that, he visited the Pfizer plant in Portage which makes the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

President Joe Biden on Saturday visited King Orchards in Central Lake, County Antrim, in northern Michigan.

First Lady Jill Biden visited Michigan in June, speaking at an pop-up vaccination clinic on the DeVos campus of Grand Rapids Community College.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona also came to Michigan last month, stopping by community colleges in Dearborn and Warren to encourage young people to get the COVID-19 vaccine and highlight the administration’s efforts. Biden to offer two years of free college.

This time around, Biden will not be stopping in Southeast Michigan due to the massive flood cleanup underway, which has kept Interstate 94 closed in Detroit and Dearborn, the representative said. American Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn.

“It would make no sense to remove valuable resources in the recovery from flooding in many communities,” Dingell told the Detroit News Friday after spending his morning visiting homes damaged by the floods. “He’s fully aware of what’s going on in Michigan because I brought it up with him in the White House on Wednesday.”

President Joe Biden is greeted by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, left, Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, second left, Senator Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers, at right, as he arrives at Cherry Capital Airport on Saturday, July 3, 2021 in Traverse City, Mich. (AP Photo / Alex Brandon)

Biden’s senior executives are monitoring the situation and the president “wants to do whatever he can to support him,” she said.

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Editor-in-chief Melissa Nann Burke and freelance writer John Barnes contributed.


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