Stewart offers no fresh insight

Even though he is the eighth provincial agriculture minister in the past decade and growers are feeling a little desperate at their low returns for fruit, Ben Stewart was received politely Friday by about 100 growers on the second day of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association convention in Penticton.

Ben Stewart

Even though he is the eighth provincial agriculture minister in the past decade and growers are feeling a little desperate at their low returns for fruit, Ben Stewart was received politely Friday by about 100 growers on the second day of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association convention in Penticton.

The feeling among BCFGA members was that although Stewart may not be offering much more help than the ministers that have proceeded him, at least has a background in agriculture and has even been involved in growing tree fruits, so that’s encouraging.

Growers have appealed to many politicians over the years to increase the agriculture ministry budget—since it’s the lowest of any province in the country—and continue programs that support the industry.

But, instead of increasing, the industry has lost ground to budgets in such ministries as health and education.

As BCFGA president Joe Sardinha noted, agriculture is an essential part of health care in B.C., yet it’s a drop in the bucket in comparison.

Stewart did advise that growers must get consumers and retailers onside.

“Eating locally is good for the environment, good for your health and good for the economy,” he commented.

Sardinha suggested growers partner with stores who will commit to go to local farmers first before shopping elsewhere for stock. “Catch the buy-local wave,” he advised.

Instead of relying on government funding for support programs, he suggested growers establish partnerships with retailers.

However, Winfield grower Roger Bailey told Stewart the government has a responsibility to use programs that are already in place to support the industry, for instance, by not allowing the import of produce which contains invasive pests of tree fruits.

“Political will is needed to direct these programs to work,” he said.

Stewart said he’s eaten local apples in New Zealand and in California and they don’t compare in flavour to B.C. apples.

He suggested growers capitalize on that, as well as on such programs as Sterile Insect Release, which has substantially reduced the amount of chemicals used in the valley against the codling moth, because consumers appreciate a product that’s more environmentally-friendly.

He said today people have a growing interest in food, who grew it, where it comes from and what’s in it, and the industry can capitalize on that by telling its story.

One grower asked about support for some form of supply management for the industry, but Stewart was not optimistic, saying trade agreements wouldn’t permit that and it could take a decade to undertake.

Just Posted

Kelowna’s Gospel Mission serves annual Christmas dinner

Between 700 to 800 meals were served Saturday to the community

Your weekend story highlights

Every Saturday, the Capital News will highlight stories from the week

The Paperboys visit Kelowna

Check out the Rotary Centre for the Arts Jan. 27

Let it snow in Kelowna

Snow is in the forecast for this week

Photos: Adventuring in Stuart Park

Have you seen Friday’s edition of the Capital News? Check out the photos featured

All aboard the Summerland Christmas Express

The first train of the Summerland Christmas Express schedule.

Porter blanks Blades in Rockets’ road trip finale

Rookie netminder stops 40 shots in Kelowna’s last game before Christmas break

All aboard the Summerland Christmas Express

The first train of the Summerland Christmas Express schedule.

Meningococcal clinics open this Sunday

Interior Health is stepping up efforts to get young people vaccinated against Meningococcal.

Update: RCMP arrest domestic assault suspect west of Kamloops.

The RCMP Emergency Response Team made the arrest at around 4:30 p.m.

Owl found dead after eating rat poison leaves B.C. woman concerned

After finding the owl on her Surrey property, Christine Trozzo says the poison is a concern for kids

Change to CPP death benefit panned as insufficient to cover funeral costs

Funeral Services Association of Canada lobbied governments to raise the value to $3,580

#MeToo at work: Employers play a role in fixing culture of sexual harassment

B.C. workplaces are getting ahead of being the next MeToo debacle, calling on experts to train staff

Most Read