BC Fruit Growers Association looks back and plan for success in 2014

By on January 22, 2014
Cherries ripen on a tree near Osoyoos in this file photo. The BC Fruit Growers look back at 2013 as they plan for 2014. (File photo by Richard McGuire)

Cherries ripen on a tree near Osoyoos in this file photo. The BC Fruit Growers look back at 2013 as they plan for 2014. (File photo by Richard McGuire)

Sometimes you have to look back to move forward.

That’s what the BC Fruit Growers’ Association is doing as it plans for success this year.

General Manager Glen Lucas said grower returns in 2013 were good – especially for apples, due to the low 2012 inventory resulting from the crop failure in the Eastern U.S. and Canada.

But many growers struggled with weather problems – from rain during harvest for cherries to severe hail damage in apple orchards.

Lucas said the industry lost a great leader when Joe Sardinha passed away suddenly at the end of August. Sardinha was BCFGA president from 2005 and 2011.

The provincial election on May 14 saw both main parties promise a renewed replant program for the tree fruit sector.

Following the election, a new agriculture minister, Pat Pimm, was appointed.

Lucas said a severe hailstorm occurred on August 12 in Kelowna, followed by a second devastating hailstorm on August 29 in Oliver.

“The BCFGA organized tours of the affected areas so that MLAs and the minister of agriculture could see the damage first-hand.”

Lucas noted the production insurance program covers loss of fruit, but not damage to trees, therefore, extra expenditure is required to help the trees recover.

“The BCFGA pushed hard for assistance to growers whose trees were damaged and not covered by crop insurance,” Lucas said.

But he noted that the minister said the province would not be making an application to the AgriRecovery Program to compensate for grower losses due to tree damage.

Looking ahead, Lucas said there is good progress on the renewal of the Columbia River Treaty.

The province issued a draft position in October, which recognizes impacts on B.C. and calls for compensation of the impacts.

Lucas said the U.S. State Department is expected to finalize the American position in mid-2014 and aims to have negotiations completed by the end of 2014.

Looking back, the Growing Forward 2 (a five-year federal-provincial agreement on shared-cost agriculture programs) was launched in 2013.

Lucas pointed out the federal and provincial governments’ AgriStability coverage and AgriInvest matching funds are much reduced.

“The agriculture sector is very disappointed that the Environmental Farm Plan and food safety in-farm implementation funds are falling short of demand, as these programs help growers protect the environment and increase the safety of our products for consumers,” he said.

But Lucas stated there was some increase in funding for AgriInnovation, AgriMarketing and AgriCompetitiveness.

The BCFGA is having a referendum on an Apple Research and Promotion Agency, which involves an apple levy.

The agency is expected to provide a more equitable contribution to research and promotion, transparency in program decisions, leverage for government research and marketing programs and the possibility of collecting the levy on apple imports.

Lucas said the hot topics for 2014 include the proposed apply agency, a replant announcement, the Columbia River Treaty and the possibility of more severe weather events.

The BCFGA is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

This will be a focus at the annual convention held in Kelowna on February 14-15.


Special to the Times



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