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Kelowna council authorizes subsidized cherry disposal to avoid pest disaster

Kelowna city council has authorized a highly-subsidized means of disposing of fruit to cherry growers owing to the threat of a deadly pest.

Monday afternoon, the council unanimously decided to offer cherry growers a churned-composting option at the landfill in light of requests from farmers suffering from a shortage of available land to bury the culled cherry, or waste fruit.

The service will cost farmers $16.57 per tonne and should stem the threat of the Spotted Wing Drosophila fly spreading into local fruit crops, the fly being attracted to rotting fruit.

"I think the cost of $16-a-tonne seems very reasonable to me," said Concillor André Blanleil, who noted the municipality already subsidizes farmers in a variety of ways that other industries, like construction, are not afforded owing to the service food production provide residents.

Were even one fly to make it into fruit exports, particularly the new international trade opportunities announced with China for B.C. cherry producers mid-June, it could be disaster for the industry.

When the pest appeared on the scene in California it caused an impressive amount of destruction in just one year, decimating the 2008 crops, and as such council decided to act immediately on the plan with little discussion.

"The worst thing we could do is have cherry growers, in anticipation of this, saving all of their stuff on top of the ground," pointed out Mayor Walter Gray as he asked city staff to move forward with whatever measures necessary to have the program in place for the final readings of the bylaws needed in two weeks.

The method of disposal was chosen at the request of the Ministry of Agriculture and involves using Churned Windrow Technology to wet and churn the culled cherries in a speedy decomposition system.

Twitter: @jaswrites

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