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

Mikkal returns to roots for Vernon show

Lavington artist plays Record City alongside VonReason and Grandpa Gruv

Pet Planet picks up Lumby’s cannabis for pets

True Leaf Medicine International expands retail distribution to 3,500 stores worldwide

Record rotary auction makes Okanagan dreams come true

Kalamalka Rotary Club donates more than $194,000

Vernon RCMP seek people on outstanding warrants

Trio sought by Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP for various infractions

VJH Foundation announces 2019 Hospital Gala

The event is set to take place Vernon Lodge and Conference Centre on May 11.

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

Permit rejected to bring two cheetahs to B.C.

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

Care providers call for B.C. seniors’ watchdog to step down

The association also asks the province to conduct an audit and review of the mandate of her office

Update: Highway 3 near Keremeos open to alternating traffic

Details scarce about collision that has closed Highway 3 west of Keremeos

Okanagan librarian delves into trio of titles

Book Talk: Dark Matter, Lincoln’s Dreams and The Jealous Kind

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from B.C. roaster recalled due to botulism scare

“If you purchased N7 Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from Cherry Hill … do not drink it.”

B.C. man gets award for thwarting theft, sexual assault – all in 10 minutes

Karl Dey helped the VPD take down a violent sex offender

Indigenous students recognized at ceremony at Okanagan College

The ceremony recognizes that students are getting an education while holding onto Indigenous background and teachings

Most Read