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up front By Bryden Winsby

Letnick’s turn to danceVictoria Shuffle T

he door to the provincial agricultureminister’s office in Victoria doesn’t revolve, in the

literal sense. Figuratively, though, it spins as often as any other in the legislative building. DuringBCBerryGrower’s first three

years of publicationwe’ve seen fourmen occupy the office. There have been eight during the past decade, some of them quite qualified, others...well... not so much. The latest isNormLetnick, one of threeKelowna-areaMLAswho have held the post since 2009. As cabinet positions go, this is amajor

one, but not exactly a plum, if you’ll pardon the pun. Letnick and his predecessors have all touted the ag industry’s tremendous importance to the economicwell-being of the province, yet theministry remains chronically underfunded in comparison tomany others in the country. Not surprisingly, the newminister is

putting on a brave and optimistic face. As you’ll learn through an interviewwith AssociateEditor Judie Steeves for this issue, Letnick hopes to put his business background to productive use.His enthusiasmcouldwell be tempered by the current political climate, however. He and his fellowB.C. Liberals are strugglingmightily in opinion polls as the spring election looms ever larger. They need bad publicity asmuch as they need to step on a rake. As this issuewas beingwrapped up,

though, yet anotherworry had landed on Letnick’s desk. The recently- established Food InnovationCentre of B.C. has gone publicwith a claimthat it has been let down badly by the province, to the pointwhere itmay have to close its doors. The FIBCwas launched a couple of

years agowithmoney fromGrowing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, but last springwas told by Victoria that its funding had been cut by 40 percent. FIBCsays the agministry advised itwould seek additional financing, but has been unable to do so despite repeated revisions of business plans andmeetings. In a news release supporting FIBC’s

plea for help,B.C. Food Processors Association presidentDaveEto said “A near complete change of personnel in the agministry, including theminister, deputyminister, directors and even most of the front line staff has taken

4 British Columbia Berry Grower • Winter 2012-13

place. This resulted in a restarting of discussionswith all newpeople. “Responsibility for innovationwas then shifted fromAg to Jobs, Tourismand Innovation, once again restarting the discussions.Andmost

recent shuffles ofministerial responsibilities have shifted Innovation yet again only this time to theMinistry ofAdvancedEducation.” And so it goes... While the provincemay be short of

cash for agriculture and a host of other things, it has no shortage of bears. This has been a particularly problematic year in numerous residential areas and for some berry growers.Howbest to deal with themis the subject of our cover story.Coquitlam’s SidKwantes is rather bullish on the idea of a cull to reduce the dangers they pose, even though such a

drasticmeasurewouldn’t sitwellwith a lot of folks. Elsewhere in these pages, you’ll find

out aboutOcean Spray’s newstate-of- the-art cranberry receiving centre in Richmond, research by award-winning doctoral studentEricGerbrandt on whether the so-calledHoneyberry can be adapted to FraserValley growing conditions, a reviewof the year thatwas for themajor berry commodities, and– because it’s so very important—yet another update on the SpottedWing Drosophilawith a further reminder frometymologist Tracy Hueppel- scheuser that growers have a key role to play as efforts continue to find effective ways to control the serious threat posed by this particular pest. Read on.

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