Alcohol production, cherries in focus as Vernon Chamber welcomes Bibeau

The Chamber held a roundtable with federal agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau Monday

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has heard firsthand how crucial agriculture is to the economy of the North Okanagan.

Bibeau took part in a roundtable discussion hosted by the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce Monday that included food producers, processors and local government representatives.

“I’m ready to jump in for the whole country,” said the Quebec MP who was appointed agriculture minister by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau March 1.

“Agriculture is a strong industry and contributes to the economy across the country.”

Among those that Bibeau met was Tony Dyck, founder of Okanagan Spirits, the venue of the roundtable.

Dyck told Bibeau that distilleries are charged an excise tax for their product and that’s limiting private sector investment and job creation.

“Small distilleries across B.C. and Canada need some help,” he said, adding that Okanagan Spirits sources its fruit and grain locally.

Related: Federal funding will support tree fruit industry

Related: Announcement benefits B.C. farmers

A similar message also came from Melissa Dobernigg, owner of The BX Press Cidery.

“Alcohol production is a way to revitalize the family farm and agriculture. It’s a way to add value to (culled) fruit that no longer has a value,” said Dobernigg.

Labour was also on the agenda as growers experience some challenges with the foreign worker program.

Sukhpaul Bal, president of the B.C. Cherry Association, suggested to Bibeau that the federal government allow growers to hire people visiting the Okanagan on a tourist visa.

“There are a lot of people who want to work here for the short fruit season, but don’t have the (work) visa,” said Bal.

Local producers are also concerned about Canada’s trade relationship with China, particularly because 75 per cent of B.C.’s cherry exports go to China (not including the U.S.).

Representatives from the City of Vernon and the Regional District of North Okanagan participated in the roundtable and Mayor Victor Cumming urged the federal government to help communities address a lack of housing, which is impacting the economy.

“We have the employees but we need the housing,” he said.

Others at the roundtable included the B.C. Fruit Growers Association, 4-H, Salade Excetera and Mel Arnold, North Okanagan-Shuswap MP.

“We thank Minister Bibeau for taking the time to stop in Vernon and meet with our members and other stakeholders as a strong and vibrant agricultural sector is critical to the North Okanagan’s economy. The sector has considerable potential for job growth,” said said Dione Chambers, Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce general manager.

“We will continue to lobby the federal government to support that growth, and our Chamber is actively developing policy related to distilleries and the excise tax.”


@VernonNews
newstips@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Vernon youth wins award at B.C Wildlife Federation’s Annual Gala

Wyatt Cleverley was awarded the Youth Big Game Award as well as the Youth Outstanding Big Game Award for his Mule Deer measuring 163 6/8.

Hear the music is getting louder

Fundraising gala to take place at Paddlewheel Hall on Friday, May 24.

Dusty streets nothing to cough at in Vernon

LETTER: Vernon isn’t any worse than any other city

Vernon medical cannabis shop shutting doors

Herb’s Health Centre has been operating without a city business licence for nearly a year

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Former Kelowna Rocket makes history with Great Britian at hockey championships

Jackson Whistle was part of the team’s first win at this level since 1962

Kelowna Blues repeat as touch football champions

The Kelowna Blues won the 39th Annual Maybowl Western Canada Touch Football Tournament b

Big White firefighters rescue frozen dog from ice

The fire crew found a dog stuck in the at Lake Paul on May 20

Okanagan woman hopes to bring attention to high number of medical errors in Canada

Retired nurse requires over 300 signatures for petition with June 13 deadline

Raptors beat Bucks 120-102 to even series at 2-2

Lowry pours in 25 as Toronto moves within two games of NBA Finals

Body of missing snowmobiler recovered from Great Slave Lake

Police confirm the body is that of one of three missing snowmobilers

Penticton sets cap of 14 cannabis stores, removes buffer zone

The city previously relied on a buffer zone and scoring matrix to limit number of stores

B.C. woman shares silk road journey in Vernon

A slideshow and presentation will be available at Gallery Vertigo on May 25

Most Read