by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Ontario apple and tender fruit growers both say they appreciate the $2 million announced Thursday to map strategies for dealing with future weather disruptions, but they won’t be happy if that’s all there is.
“If there is a next step, that will be perfect,” said Phil Tregunno, chair of the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers Marketing Board. “Without getting the next step,” he said, “the first step doesn’t seem that effective.”
That first step, announced in a joint news release by federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Ontario Agriculture Minister Ted McKeekin, offers producers money “to develop mitigation strategies to address frost damage.” Tree fruit growers, who lost a large portion of their crops when early blossoms were killed off by an April frost last year, want money to help buy frost-fighting equipment like wind machines which cost about $40,000 each. They want, essentially, what Ontario grape growers have in the Ontario Vineyard Improvement Program (OVIP), an $11 million fund that, according to the program guidelines, pays producers “up to 35 per cent of the cost for implementing eligible vineyard improvements.” There is an additional $1 million “to assist the sector as a whole with access to additional technologies and capacities to help improve grape production in the vineyard.”
Brian Gilroy, chair of the Ontario Apple Growers, also says his growers want what the grape growers have or something that will put money directly into producers’ hands through the Growing Forward 2 program. However, that may not be in the cards.
In an interview with Better Farming, McKeekin said the $2 million on the table is to help associations work with their members to consider whether coverage and processes currently in place are enough.
The $2 million is not Growing Forward AgriRecovery money which, McKeekin said, is reserved for disasters. On the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada website, AgriRecovery is described as “a disaster relief framework and is one of the components of the current suite of Business Risk Management (BRM) programs under Growing Forward.”
“If the trees get blown out of their roots,” McKeekin said, “and need to be replanted, that would be a disaster but if the trees aren’t damaged that is not covered . . . We don’t do AgriRecovery as a supplement to the ordinary everyday ag insurance and ag stability programs.”
Those programs provided about $74 million to Ontario tree fruit growers to cover crop losses this year. As for the Growing Forward 2 program delivered by federal, provincial and territorial governments, McKeekin says the program is still under discussion and not finalized.
“We are optimistic that we may be able to access some Growing Forward 2 resources to further assist with things like a strategy, marketing, that sort of stuff.” BF