by SUSAN MANN
The federal government is committed to working with Ontario’s government along with its apple and tender fruit industries to assess weather-related damage, says Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.
The minister made the comments in response to Ontario Agriculture Minister Ted McMeekin, who has been talking to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada officials about frost damage to the province’s apple and tender fruit crops.
Ritz says in an email the federal government is committed to helping growers when extreme weather conditions severely impact their viability. “It is still too early to tell what damage has been done but we are working with industry and the province to assess the situation.”
About programs already in place that growers can use, Rtiz says they’re the first line of defense to help producers manage the risks associated with farming.
McMeekin says its good news the federal government will work with Ontario. It also pledged to help ensure existing safety-net programs, such as crop insurance, AgriStability and AgriInvest, are responsive enough.
McMeekin toured a Niagara-area tender fruit and apple farm Thursday afternoon to see the damage first hand. As he toured the orchard of Rich Feenstra in Beamsville, McMeekin says he was “saddened.” But “there’s some secondary blooming going on which is providing some reason for hope.”
Fruit crops hard hit after warm weather in March accelerated bloom growth and frost in April destroyed the blossoms include pears, cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots and apples. “We have our OMAFRA people on the ground doing the scientific assessment,” he notes.
McMeekin also met with Quebec Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Pierre Corbeil in Montreal earlier this week. McMeekin says the tender fruit sectors in both Quebec and Nova Scotia have not been devastated. BF