GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) _ Against the backdrop of a family-owned apple orchard, presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan promised Tuesday to protect farmers from cheaper, foreign crops that he said threaten to destroy American agriculture.

On the second day of a two-day campaign swing through Michigan, the conservative Republican repeated a familiar theme in his longtime quest for the presidency. Current trade laws allow ``Communist China'' to sell its apples below cost here, he said.

``They don't let our manufacturers in, and then dump everything they have in the U.S. free of charge,'' Buchanan said during a brief tour of Robinette's Apple Farm, retail store and cafe in northeast Grand Rapids. ``The people who talk global free trade don't understand that or don't care.''

The orchard's owner, Jim Robinette, said he would consider voting for Buchanan.

``I'm undecided right now, but I'm impressed,'' Robinette said. ``He's the first candidate we've head who was really interested in agriculture.''

Andy Sneller, a Fremont apple farmer drove 45 minutes to see Buchanan. He said his 600-acre farm is losing money and he is afraid there will not be a business for his sons to take over.

``I'm desperate,'' Sneller said. ``We must do something to save our farms. Buchanan has ideas.''

Buchanan ran for president in 1992 and 1996. He did not win the Michigan primary either year but predicted he will do well in he state in 2000, even though Michigan Gov. John Engler is backing Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

``I think the establishment closes ranks too quickly,'' he said when asked about Bush's support.

On Monday Buchanan had called Engler ``Friar Tuck'' _ a reference to the portly friar who accompanied Robin Hood.