OAG Annual Report
October 31, 2018 - Download the PDF
COMMENTS FROM THE CHAIR
As I sit down to write my 2018 report, the year reminds me of my favourite hydrangea variety; Endless Summer. The weather, this year, has really made harvest interesting. While helping some varieties like Ambrosia and Gala, it has hindered others like Honeycrisp. The maturity of apples was late in most areas in Ontario resulting in a smaller window of opportunity to harvest. For myself, between September 20th – 22nd, I did not pick apples. In my 44 years of growing apples this has never happened. Most growers in Ontario lost between 10 – 50% of their Honeycrisp crop, due to drop, as a result of this year’s weather phenomena. The weather has resulted in exceptional flavor though and overall Ontario will end up with a good crop in both volume and quality.
Over the last ten years, the apple industry has been going through a metamorphosis. We have gone from an industry of low capitalization to one that is very high. This is a result of mechanization, thus reducing our labour costs, the demand for better quality and the push to produce better yields putting extreme stress on our apple farmers (both those established and those new to apple farming) as they deal with the huge capital costs of planting new high-density orchards. There is also the added stress while waiting the 6 years for the new plantings to finally become profitable. Our apple acreage has remained stagnant for many years and will remain so if we can’t find a solution to this situation.
The OAG has been actively looking for ways to assist farmers and encourage orchard planting. We are pleased to have received some funding, in partnership with the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers and Fresh Grape Growers, to offer a Tree & Vine Grant Funding Program for the current year. This program is providing up to a maximum of 30% of the tree cost for tree fruit and fresh grape vines. The OAG Board will continue to investigate options to assist our members whenever and wherever possible so that we all may grow and thrive in this competitive sector.
Two important things are needed by apple farmers to produce a good crop. They need crop protection materials to combat the 75 disease and insects that attack the crop and an economical way of dealing with crop load management. The PMRA re-evaluation process has been devastating to both these requirements. We have limited use of our number one chemical thinner, Sevin, and PMRA’s final decision on Captan now restricts the use to two sprays on ‘non-high density’ orchards. These orchards still account for a very large portion of acreage in Ontario. With the loss of Metiram and the pending re-evaluation of Mancozeb, we will be out of ‘M’ group fungicides that are used to aid in combating resistance with almost all new fungicides. In the next month or so, apple farmers from across Canada will be asked to provide a letter to describe how the loss of Mancozeb will affect your business. Please take the time to write this letter as it may be the most important thing that you do to save these crop protection materials.
Looking at the bigger picture, we know that PMRA operates under strict Health Canada regulations and we also know that the re-evaluation process is not sustainable in its current format for either PMRA or farmers. There are regulations and policies that need to be changed at PMRA. To make this happen we will be working very closely with our national industry partners to lobby for meaningful changes to the system for the betterment of the entire horticulture sector. This will take time.
As you know, we have a new provincial government that has recently capped the minimum wage at $14.00/hour for now. We are still waiting to hear what the government plans to do with the other new labour regulations put in place by the previous government. This new government is very engaged in cutting regulations that inhibit our business, so now is the time to send us your comments on those regulations that restrict your business’s growth, that don’t make sense or that create duplication.
It has been a pleasure working with your Board of Directors over the past year on issues such as crop insurance, research, new variety development, promotion and so many other topics. I could not ask for a better board to be a part of and I thank them for their dedication. They have made my job easy. It is important to lend the apple voice to the many associations and organizations and we are fortunate to have knowledgeable farmers participate. I would also like to thank all the OAG staff and a special thanks to Kelly Ciceran. Our staff team has worked hard on your behalf this year and a highlight certainly was the exceptional job they did planning our Apple Academy last January.
On behalf of all Ontario apple farmers I would like to acknowledge and thank our many funding partners. The OAG has been fortunate to receive funding from Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario. Additionally, we acknowledge the support and thank the Apple Marketers’ Association of Ontario, Horticulture Crops Ontario, the Georgian Bay Fruit Growers’ Association and Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association.
In closing, I ask you to mark your calendars for July 21 – 24, 2019 as Ontario has the privilege of hosting the International Tree Fruit Association’s (IFTA) Summer Study Tour.
Charles R. Stevens
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