One grower group agrees to proposed national council, the other hasmembership issues.
By Judie Steeves I
t’s not over yet, but a vote this winter by blueberry growers on support for establishment of a national council was negative— with 21 per cent of the ballots spoiled.
As a result, executive-director Debbie Etsell says steps are being taken steps to ensure a complete and accurate listing of eligible B.C. blueberry growers in case growers wish to revisit participation in the Canadian Highbush Blueberry Council in the future.
Raspberry growers, on the other hand, have voted in favour of forming a national raspberry council, so the process will move forward to get the support of importers next, explained Sharmin Gamiet, executive-director of the Raspberry Industry Development Council. Quebec raspberry growers voted overwhelmingly in March in favour of forming a national council, but Ontario growers had yet to announce the results of their vote by our magazine deadline.
With a vote of more than 70 per cent of growers in favour in B.C., including
the majority of raspberry acreage, Gamiet said they feel quite comfortable in proceeding to the next stage, getting importers on side.
For a national council to be formed, first there must be a favourable vote of the majority of the country’s growers and importers, then the provincial agriculture ministers must agree before stakeholder hearings are held by the Farm Products Council of Canada. Those results are then forwarded to the federal agriculture minister for a decision on formation of a national council. Once a national council is formed, not only all the country’s growers, but all those who import berries into Canada would pay a levy toward research,
marketing and promotion.
If the levy were a half cent a pound of fruit, Gamiet estimated $350,000 to $400,000 would be raised which would be very helpful toward raising the profile of raspberries.
She is hopeful the proposal can be submitted to the Farm Products Council by June.
A similar process is underway in the U.S., she noted, and if growers on both sides of the border could pool their resources with the funds raised, much
more could be done.
Meanwhile, the process of verifying the eligibility of blueberry growers who voted was time-consuming, with both the accounting firm of Meyers Norris Penny and the staff at the BCBC working on it over a period of months. In the end, it was found nearly a quarter of the ballots were spoiled because they were incomplete, they didn’t have all the ballot questions checked or the voters could not be verified as B.C. blueberry growers. The 93 growers who voted in favour of a national council represented nearly double the amount of acreage represented by the 107 who voted negatively, at 6,570 acres versus 3,204 acres.
With 21 per cent of the ballots ruled spoiled, Etsell commented, “The results of the vote cannot be construed as a clear assessment of grower opinion with respect to the formation of a Canadian Highbush Blueberry Council.
“Farm Products Council of Canada, the federal body responsible for approving a national council, requires documented and accurate information when considering the BCBC application for national membership. The January voting process demonstrated that our current grower member information is presently inadequate for this process.”
British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2012 9
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