The manager of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association is calling the latest provincial budget “very good” for farmers.
Glen Lucas referred to the 4.65 per cent increase to the Ministry of Agriculture’s core budget. He noted this $4.4 million lift will expand the Buy BC, Feed BC and Grow BC programs to benefit fruit growers.
Lucas also gave a thumbs up to the $35 million to continue the centralized quarantine program for foreign workers arriving in B.C.
He noted this program is very important to help farmers keep workers and communities safe from COVID-19.
“There are lots of challenges to get foreign workers here (during the pandemic),” Lucas said.
The general manager also praised carrying forward $7 million from last year’s budget to support food hubs, farm innovation and food processing.
“This helps the smaller food processing operations get into business.”
Lucas also pointed to the $7.5 million for agri-tech initiatives.
Overall, Lucas said this budget bucks the long-term trend of declining budgets for the agriculture sector.
Locally, he is very pleased to see the province pitch in $5 million for the Gallagher Lake siphon repair project north of Oliver.
Lucas noted that the apple sector has been under incredible financial pressure, plagued by poor returns and reduced acreage.
“We’re asking for stabilization to help the apple sector continue . . . we’ve had three or four tough years.”
He cited the ongoing problem with subsidized apples from the U.S. being sold in B.C.
“There have been a lot of challenges on top of COVID-19.”
BC Tree Fruits Cooperative is also happy with the provincial budget, saying it will benefit all tree fruit growers in the province.
“The help with foreign workers, the expansion of programs such as Buy BC, and of course the ongoing PST exemption on capital investments are some examples of how this budget will support the growers,” said Laurel Van Dam, director of media relations.
She noted the cooperative intends to continue working with growers, industry stakeholders and the government to find long-term sustainable solutions for the tree fruit industry.
Reg Ens, executive director of the BC Agriculture Council, said the investments being made by the provincial government will help farmers keep their workers safe and improve infrastructure for rural B.C.
Council president Stan Vander Waal said the government is shifting its focus from COVID-19 to the task of supporting food systems.
“It is critical we play a part in future plans for stabilizing the food value chain in B.C.,” he stated.