B.C. apple growers will vote in the coming weeks on a proposal that has the potential to raise $1.4 million for apple promotion and research, a figure that could double in future.
A plebiscite of growers on the proposed Apple Research and Promotion Agency must be completed by Mar. 8, 2012 and will pass if at least 40 per cent of registered growers vote 65 per cent or more in favour.
The new ARPA council would include up to three apple growers, one of which must be an organic grower; one or two members at large; one member from the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre and an ex officio government representative.
It would manage funds raised by a levy of up to $.009 a pound ($.002 for processed fruit), but the initial levy would be half that, said Joe Sardinha, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association.
The new council would not undertake projects, but would fund projects for the co-operative, BCFGA or other industry groups.
Funds raised on organically-grown apples would go to that sector, as the current levy for Ambrosia apples would continue to go to the New Variety Development Council.
That existing levy for Ambrosias is three times what is proposed by the new council.
The levy for other varieties of apples would be about the same as is currently collected by B.C. Tree Fruits for promotion.
Growers in Nova Scotia likely will work towards a similar council if B.C. growers approve this and growers in both Quebec and Ontario already have a levy system.
If there is a national council, which is possible once all growers in the country approve a provincial levy, it could collect the levy not only from apples marketed by Canadian growers in Canada, but also from apple imports, which could double the funds that could be raised, noted Sardinha.
“There’s strength in numbers,” he commented.
The idea for the B.C. ARPA came out of the Apple Working Group of the Canadian Horticulture Council.
Formation of the council would come under the provincial Farming and Fishing Industry Development Act, and the levy would have to be authorized by the provincial cabinet under that legislation. Its mandate would then have to be renewed every five years by a vote.
The BCFGA would administer the council’s work on a contract basis.
The levy would be collected at the first point of sale of fruit, which in many instances would be a packinghouse, but could also be another sales agency or a retail outlet.
Packinghouses and processors would be responsible to report, collect and forward the levies, but growers selling direct to retail or wholesale outlets or processors would have to pay the levy directly to the council.
This month meetings will be held with industry organizations to get feedback on the proposal, which will be submitted to the agriculture minister Jan. 17 for approval by Jan. 24.
Presentation of the plan and voting will begin at the BCFGA annual convention Jan. 26 to 27 in Kelowna.
Balloting will also be conducted by mail and will wrap up at the annual Horticulture Forum in Kelowna March 1.