The decision to join ARPA (Apple Research and Promotion Agency), which will likely be controversial, has been put off until November 2013.
This is the third time the decision to hold the vote has been put off. This time out, the decision to postpone, explains Glen Lucas, general manager of the BCFGA, was to avoid overlap, and possible confusion, from having a referendum on this issue at the same time that cherry growers were deciding whether to form the B.C. Cherry Council (growers voted that initiative down).
Lucas says, “We’re promoting that growers be aware of what the apple promotion agency would do and how the levy would work.”
ARPA is the proposal for British Columbia apple growers to participate in a nation-wide research agency. For ARPA to go ahead the farmers in the four provinces with sizeable orchards and organized apple growers (Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec and B.C.) must agree to participate. The other three provinces have already given the go ahead, so now it comes down to this province. If B.C. apple growers reject it ARPA won’t go ahead.
The controversy arises because it will require growers to accept a small production levy, something that some cash strapped farmers object to.
The advantage is that if it goes ahead, it would become a national scheme and a charge could be applied to all apple imports. Given that approximately half of Canada’s apples are imported, this would effectively double ARPA’s funding, which is to be used to address research on various apple industry issues.
Lucas, talking about the BCFGA, says, “We’ll be recommending it.” He adds, “My understanding is that we’re for it, but we’ll support whatever decision the growers make.”
The next step will occur at a special BCFGA General Meeting in August where delegates will take care of some bylaw amendments. At that meeting Lucas says they’ll provide an ARPA information system, which the delegates and representatives will share with grower members in the fall, leading up to the vote in November.
There will be some promotion of the plebiscite using a modest grant provided by Investment Agriculture supplemented by some BCFGA funds set aside in the annual budget for that purpose.
Says Lucas, “It’s at the stage where the information is out there and we need to move forward and make a decision.”