By Marg Land
As I write this editorial, the 2011 federal budget has just been released by the minority Conservative government.
As I write this editorial, the 2011 federal budget has just been released by the minority Conservative government. And, while there were a few bones thrown to fruit and vegetable producers – such as $17 million over five years to manage, monitor and prevent the spread of plum pox and $50 million over two years to support knowledge creation, transfer and increased commercialization of agricultural innovations – there just wasn’t a lot there for Canadian agriculture. Actually, it was downright boring.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture wasn’t too impressed with the document either. While the organization was pleased with the addition of “helpful initiatives” for some agriculture sectors, “Canadian farmers are disappointed there was not a stronger signal from the federal government recognizing agriculture as an investment priority,” a press release from the CFA states.
“While fiscal restraint is necessary in this time of significant deficits, the CFA reiterates that the budget should not be balanced on the backs of farmers,” said Ron Bonnett, president of the CFA. “[Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada] has seen its total funding cut 42 per cent from an average of $4.5 billion between 2004-2008 to $2.57 billion for 2011-2012.”
And a lot of those cuts have been made in the area of brainpower. Key research positions in fruit and vegetable production across the country have been lost as aging researchers retire and their positions are left vacant. Fruit producers in British Columbia are currently negotiating to have key research positions filled, especially after the recent loss of cherry breeder Dr. Frank Kappel, who has retired after 28 years with the federal government. Instead of replacing Dr. Kappel, apple breeder Cheryl Hampson will also be taking over cherry breeding duties at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre.
“If even a fraction of this savings was reinvested into agricultural research and innovation – as has been suggested by numerous groups, including the CFA – Canadian agriculture would be well situated for another 20 years of growth,” said Bonnett.
As can be expected, there were also lots of doom and gloom predictions from federal government agriculture critics following the budget announcement. New Democrat agriculture critic Alex Atamanenko, who hails from B.C.’s southern inte-
rior, said he would have liked to see more support for the local food movement.
“There is nothing in the budget to address the dire situation facing Okanagan fruit growers in B.C. who have lost so much money due to the yearly dumping into our market at harvest time by the U.S. and China as a result of trade agreements,” he added.
Liberal agriculture critic Wayne Easter was also anything but positive on the budget’s agriculture components.
“For agriculture, there is virtually nothing for farmers to compensate for the cuts made in the government’s estimates released earlier this month,” he said.
Of course, all of this budget gazing will probably be for moot. In the next few days, a vote is expected in the House of Commons on the budget and, with that vote’s expected failure, a new federal election will be in the works. Who knows how that will turn out and how long it will be before another federal budget is tabled. Meanwhile, the agriculture industry will continue on with 42 per cent less support from the federal government. ❦
|Letter to the Editor|
Thank you for publishing the recent article regarding downy mildew and its over-wintering habit in cucurbit/cucumber greenhouses [Downy mildew in cucumbers is the new reality, Page 8, February 2011 Fruit & Vegetable Magazine]. Our American neighbours in Michigan and New York State will probably think that we have regained our sanity with this retreat from denial mode.
Prior to the over-wintering habit in Ontario greenhouses, we received annual visitations from downy mildew in early to mid-August, which had traveled north through the U.S. Eastern seaboard into the Great Lakes region. This historical arrival pattern was generally late enough in the season to do little crop damage or was timed such that one of two protective sprays would provide for the completion of the cropping season.
In our “new normal,” spraying commences in early June and continues through to crop completion with pumpkin, squash, cucumber, melon, grape, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, pepper, lettuce, onion and spinach being some of the target crops and the Great Lakes region being the target region. This amounts to an extraordinary economic burden for all growers concerned!
Maybe it might be an intelligent decision to reconsider the acceptance of this notion of a “new normal” relative to downy mildew. Ironclad protocols should be established for greenhouse growers’ disposal of crop residues and for the maintenance of a downy mildew-free greenhouse zone prior to, during, and post cucumber crops. Every cucumber greenhouse should be required to cease production in winter, simultaneously, for the purpose of eliminating ALL living green cucurbit tissue. Internal greenhouse temperatures should be dropped to below freezing, for a prescribed time, to eradicate this disease once and for all.
We require immediate decision and action on his problem as a few greenhouse operations are having an enormous impact on much of our field grown crops.
Our neighbours to the south are working hard on behalf of the entire Great Lakes region to control the invasion of phyto-