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Industry shrinkage tones down debate
As the tree fruit industry in the Okanagan dwindles in size, so do the numbers of members who attend the annual convention.
And the tempers of those who attend seem to have mellowed over the years. There’s less fist shaking and shouting than in years past.
It’s been 122 years since the first B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association meeting was held, and this year was marked by only one moment of real controversy, during a discussion of whether growers should support genetically-modified apple varieties.
Few disagreed with a resolution not to support them unless it can be proven that it wouldn’t harm the market for regular apples.
With more Indo-Canadian members than ever before, the BCFGA still has a largely European executive, but there was a contest between Fred Steele and Amarjit Lalli of Kelowna for the position of vice-president this year.
Steele was elected by secret ballot, but Lalli was nominated to represent the Central District on the executive and was elected to that position.
He and Madeleine Roechoudt of Lake Country were the only two new members elected to the executive, replacing Roger Bailey of Lake Country, and Kirpal Boparai of Kelowna.
Re-elected were president Joe Sardinha of Summerland, Peter Simonsen of Naramata, Nirmal Dhaliwal of Oliver, Denise MacDonald of Summerland and Sukhdev Goraya of Kelowna.
Growers have to contend with fewer effective safety net programs and a smaller provincial budget for agriculture than in the past, and they’re not happy about that.
So there were calls for increases in B.C.’s agriculture budget, which they note is the smallest in the country, and for improvements to safety net programs such as crop insurance and a support program to enable replanting and updating of orchards.
Naturally, those were discussed once Agriculture Minister Ben Stewart had entered the room prior to his presentation to the 23 delegates and executive members who represented some 800 growers.
Delegates also expressed concern about new insect pests and resolved to lobby for a compensation program for losses arising from foreign invasive pest introductions, such as the Spotted Wing Drosophila that invaded the province last year, causing devastation in some cherry orchards.
Government resources for programs to monitor and control the pest are also needed they said.
A National Plant Health Strategy is also needed to encourage swift and early reporting of new pests, so there should be a financial compensation policy for emergency plant removal orders and quarantines, to encourage self-reporting.
Adequate and secure supplies of affordable water are essential to agriculture, so growers asked that water currently used by agriculture remain with the industry.