2017 President’s Report
First of all, I would like to say thank you for allowing me to be the President of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers for the past two years.
It has been an honour to serve as your president. I think we have an amazing fruit growing industry in Nova Scotia. Although we are small by Canadian and North American standards, through the hard work and progressive moves by our grower and packer members, and with the support of the governments, our industry is on the leading edge of producing quality fruit that often attracts a premium price in the domestic and export markets.
Candy O’Connor, our executive Director, who joined us a year ago, will give a breakdown of the major activities of the association at our Annual General Meeting so I will not go into that and encourage you all to attend our meeting. All are welcome.
I would like to do is thank those who have and continue to help the industry and the association.
Firstly, it is the members. We are not an large organization with only 55 members. However, from these member farms and organizations there are over 20 people that are represented on the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Board and various committees, with many serving in many roles.
It is the volunteer efforts of these people that sustain the activities of the Fruit Growers Association. These include organizing educational programs for our industry, including this Conference, our spring workshop and summer orchard tours. There is also a significant effort made to represent the fruit growing industry at the various levels of government. This is to ensure the governments are aware of the significant contribution our industry makes to the rural economy and get support to sustain and grow our industry. A lot of effort is also made to monitor new government policies and reviews to try to keep governments from making decisions that can harm our industry.
These efforts of course require funding. I would again like to thank our grower members for paying your membership fees that sustain our association. I would encourage all non-grower members to join our association and contribute since our efforts help the entire industry.
The second group I would like to thank is our staff. As I mentioned our executive director Candy O’Connor joined us last January and over the past year has provided great assistance to us in helping to organize ourselves and our events. Candy, we look forward to your continued efforts and expanding role as you become more familiar with the industry. And then of course there is Teresa Rooney who has been with us as long as I can remember. Teresa continues to keep us on the straight and narrow regarding all financial matters, but goes far beyond that and does what is necessary to ensure that the Fruit Grower do what we need to do.
I would also like to give a sincere thanks to the governments. At the federal level, we are fortunate to have the Honorable Scott Brison as our MP from Kings Hants. He continues to support our industry and I understand he was instrumental in getting our Fire Blight Agri Recovery Program application moved through the process. This was much appreciated, as the application had passed all the technical requirements but was held up by the last federal election. This joint Federal Provincial program contributed $1.3 million to our industry to assist us in recovering from the 2104 fire blight epidemic.
At the Provincial level, we would like to express our appreciation for the continued support from Minister Keith Colwell. He is a champion of our industry in the provincial government and we thank you for that. The Minister was also instrumental in the Fire Blight program approval and his department administered it in a timely fashion.
The $2.2-million provincial Apple Industry Growth and Efficiency Program has helped our industry plant more high value modern orchards which should stand our industry in good stead for the next few decades. Again, I would like to thank the Minister for your support on this initiative. By all measures, this has been a good investment for the government and will provide long term benefits to rural Nova Scotia and the governments’ coffers.
Also Mr. Minister, I would like to express our appreciation to the staff at Perennia, and in particular Chris Duyvelshoff, who has and continues to provide excellent assistance to our organization, growers, and industry.
At a municipal level, we appreciate your foreign worker housing inspection you provide and your support for the agriculture industry.
So, thank you governments for your support, but please keep your eye on the ball to make sure government policies or decisions don’t harm our industry.
Of ongoing concern are the government reviews of some of the chemicals that are critical inputs to our pest management programs. We are participating in this review process to try to ensure that the importance of these inputs is recognized and that the review is based on sound scientific evidence. Loss of these inputs, but continued acceptance of imports from countries that use these same chemicals would put our industry at a significant and unfair disadvantage.
Also, the critical importance of keeping and improving of the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program is something that our Association has as a high priority. Gone are the days when the local work force can be relied on to do the work that needs to be done. And without a reliable work force, crops cannot be harvested, new orchards will not be planted and our progressive industry will flounder. The use of foreign workers enables the industry to continue to grow and create jobs for Canadians. Let’s make sure that this program is improved and not jeopardized, either through administrative requirements or government policy changes.
Also, targeted research is critical to help keep our industry a leader. Our Association will continue to get reengaged in an effective manner in that and we look for government support.
And to the municipality, please try to reduce your permitting requirements so we can sneeze without having to get approval.
Just a few words on the state of our industry. Of course, the big success story is the Honey Crisp apple. The 2015 crop brought record returns for our growers. This is not just luck. Our industry has positioned itself well to benefit from this apple. Firstly, it was the foresight of a few growers to recognize the potential opportunity for this apple in Nova Scotia and plant the first acreages nearly 20 years ago. That was followed up with a lot of work by growers, packers, marketers and researchers to figure out how to grow, store and market this finicky apple. Nova Scotia is now recognized as being able to grow and store some of the highest quality Honeycrisp in North America.
This is a great example of how our industry works together. With few exceptions, our grower and packer members are willing to share their successes and failures for the betterment of the industry.
The Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association is a catalyst for this. Through our various committees, ideas are shared, orchard tours arranged, conferences organized, research programs initiated, and government support requested.
Our industry is in good shape and the future looks good as long as reason prevails south of the border.
In conclusion then, thanks again for letting me be your president for the last two years.