BCFGA Convention Serious shift in focus for delegates
Internal discord gives way to seeking action on a variety ofmajor issues. By Judie Steeves
more-united group of growers this year circled the wagons and lobbied for outside forces to provide more support for agriculture rather than warring internally and tearing apart their own organization.
Battling pests, improving senior government support programs for agriculture, and concern about new food safety requirements proved to be of more interest to those attending the 128th annual convention of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association in January than turfing out their executive or diluting the controversial Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
The existing executive of the BCFGA was re-elected for 2017.
Resolutions calling for permitting more homesite severances from the ALR and for a compliance grant to subsidize those who still must spray for codling moth despite the Sterile Insect Release program, were defeated by delegates from throughout the Okanagan at the convention.
However, delegates agreed with proposals to: lobby for compensation in the upcoming new agreement on the Columbia River Treaty; have the CanadaGAP food safety program recognized as the sole program for Canada; call for increased funding for the Environmental Farm Plan program and for new apple and cherry breeders and a new weed scientist at the Summerland Research and Development Centre; and more government funding to support new varieties of tree fruits. Pests — ranging from deer to the latest invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and Apple Clearwing Moth, were a grave concern for growers, who called for hiring of an additional entomologist by the provincial government, to supplement the work done by entomologist Susanna Acheampong, due to the influx of new invasive insect pests in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys.
Growers also heard from Melissa Tesche, acting manager of the Sterile Insect Release (SIR) program, who pointed out that B.C. growers use 93 per cent fewer pesticides against the codling moth since the program came into effect. She advised growers they should be communicating this to the public who often don’t realize how free of chemicals
a chequerboard treatment of insect pests, he added.
In fact, growers voted to expand the
program to use the existing infrastructure and expertise to combat new pests such as SWD, ACM, BMSB and Apple Maggot.
Growers also called for a deer cull to help manage their numbers and reduce orchard damage. ALR —Growers questioned what they feel is the government’s ‘preferential’ treatment of the wine industry, in terms of the agri-tourism activities that are permitted on farmland in the land reserve, and they resolved there should be one set of rules for agri- tourism that doesn’t discriminate against any sector.
fruit grown in B.C. is, compared to that from other fruit growing regions. “When you talk to growers from elsewhere, you realize codling moth is still a serious problem for them, despite their use of mating disruption. They still need sprays, but we don’t,” she noted. “We need to let the public know how much we’ve reduced the use of pesticides,” she said.
BCFGA director Peter Simonsen agreed, and warned, “there are some very dangerous pests now in our backyard.”
For instance, there was a discovery of apple maggot in West Kelowna last year, although increased monitoring detected no more in the vicinity, but there was another found in Kelowna later in the summer.
As well, he expressed concern about discovery of BMSB in Penticton and said one was also found in a shipment of bath towels.
Monitoring continues for apple maggot, clearwing moth, Western Cherry Fruit Fly and other pests such as Spotted Wing Drosophila, he said. Support is needed to help combat these new pests, he said.
BCFGA manager Glen Lucas noted that in Canada we don’t have the resources for early detection and response to invasive pests. “We need a national plant health strategy.” Using an area-wide program such as SIR is important, rather than employing
British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2017
However, the chair of the Agricultural Land Commission, Frank Leonard, spoke to growers, denying that different sectors are treated differently. Land commission CEO Kim Grout also spoke, saying wineries, cideries, breweries, distilleries and meaderies can hold only limited activities outside a food and beverage lounge, which is limited to 250 square metres. In revised agri-tourism regulations brought in last year, she said on-farm activities may include up to 10 weddings a year with not more than 150 people in attendance; or music festivals, harvest festivals, corn mazes, promotions and marketing of livestock, educational or heritage tours, exhibits or displays. However, she emphasized that agriculture must continue to be the primary activity on the farm, rather than secondary to production, and permission would be required for permanent facilities like bistros, cafes or restaurants.
Local government can regulate agri- tourism, but not prohibit it, she added. Summerland grower Denise MacDonald responded that the ALC should continue to refine its regulations so there are no misunderstandings and so neighbour is not pitted against neighbour.
She also suggested that funding for the ALC should not come out of the province’s agriculture budget, which is diminishing.
Extra funding should go into universities to teach planners about agriculture, she added.
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