12:35 am farming
Earlier this week, the provincial agriculture minister Ronald Ouellette and Fundy Royal MP Rob Moore announced an initiative directed at New Brunswick’s orchards and vineyards. Up to $772,680 ($309,000 provincial – $463,680 federal) will be made available to fruit tree and vineyard owners across the province who wish to transition existing grape vines and fruit trees to new varieties.
As in fashion, food trends flourish and fade out. Apple varieties such as McIntosh are no longer as popular as they once were while new varieties such as Honeycrisp are in high demand and can extract premium prices from consumers and retailers. By removing rejuvenating orchards with newer crops, growers are able to keep pace with market demand and thus are more likely remain competitive and to be able to make a profit.
Ripping up old fruit trees and vineyards however is a costly endeavour. Not only is the labour required to remove old trees and vines needed but the is a considerable cost and effort to replant and to tend for new vines and trees as they grow and mature. There is also an added cost of land that is not producing fruit for at least a few years while the new varieties develop.
In an effort to encourage farmers to adapt to changing market conditions, the provincial and federal governments have combined to fund up to $4000 per hectare of land that has been ripped up and replanted. It is not clear if there are restrictions on what varieties can be replanted but it would definitely be in the farmer’s best interest to replant varieties that are in high demand.
In order to be eligible for the government program, farmers must have at least 0.25 hectares (or 0.60 acres) in production. In addition, farmers must commit to keeping the land that is being replanted in agriculture for at least 5 years. I doubt that either of these conditions to be an issue as newly planted orchards and vineyards will take some time to establish themselves and produce.
Is this program only for apple growers? The only significant industry for fruit orchards in New Brunswick are apples and while there is a growing grape growing industry forming, since it is still in its infancy in New Brunswick, it is unlikely that farmers will be looking to replant vines anytime soon. By including all fruit orchards and vineyards, the government is being inclusive and ensuring that no group feels excluded but I would be very surprised if more than 5% of the money spent on this program is given to non-apple growers.