Okanagan orchardists demanding stability with ag portfolio

Okanagan orchardists are frustrated about B.C.’s revolving door of agriculture ministers.

Okanagan orchardists are frustrated about B.C.’s revolving door of agriculture ministers.

Pat Pimm, Peace River MLA, was named agriculture minister last week, making him the seventh person in the portfolio since June 2008.

“We need continuity,” said Jeet Dukhia, B.C. Fruit Growers Association president. “We get a new minister and train him and then they are gone in a year. It’s a big concern.”

Dukhia says it takes time for commodity groups such as the BCFGA to develop working relation ships with ministers and to make them familiar with issues of concern. With Pimm taking over from Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, the BCFGA is starting all over again.

“We want to give a tour of the Okanagan so he knows our industry,” said Dukhia, adding that any discussions will include the need for the ministry to fund the replanting of fruit trees to keep the sector viable.

While the provincial government is focused on natural gas resource development, Dukhia insists that Victoria must continue to make agriculture a priority because of its importance to B.C.’s economy.

“We want to know what their agricultural platform is and especially for the tree fruit sector,” he said.

“We (B.C.) have the lowest agricultural budget in the country. We need a replant program on a continuing basis.”


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