Fred Steele, who was elected by acclamation as president of the BC Fruit Growers Association on Friday, chats with MLA Dan Ashton. Steve Kidd/Western News.

Steele declared president for fourth term

After his opponent withdrew, Fred Steele the sole nominee for BC Fruit Growers Association top spot

Fred Steele, starting his fourth year as president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association, said the industry needs to work together and have their priorities set.

One of the biggest jobs facing the BCFGA in 2017 is pushing through the cross-Canada Rejuvenation Program under discussion with the federal government.

“We have to get this right,” said Steele. “It is the one time in 20 years that the federal government did not say no. We have a government today that said bring us something and let’s have a look.”

Steele said getting the program in place will take a lot of work, sacrifice and co-operation, within the association but also with independent packers and the B.C. Tree Fruits Co-operative.

“It’s a real winner for us if we can just pull the last leg off,” said Steele.

If the feds agree, he continued, the Rejuvenation Program would provide powerful incentives to draw younger farmers into the industry with five-year no interest, no payment loans to replant and renew acreage.

“We have to find a way to get growers, especially young growers, on the land. You have an orchard, it has old trees, you can’t get financing, there is a lot of problems with that,” said Steele.

He said increased production through more growers and increased yield from new trees would also help justify upgrading production lines at the packing houses.

“We can’t run this on 60-year-old equipment, it just simply isn’t going to take it,” said Steele.

Steele, who was running for a fourth time at the BCFGA annual convention in Penticton on Friday (Feb. 3) found himself without an opponent when it came time for the members to vote.

During the Friday morning session, fellow nominee Jeet Dukhia withdrew his name from competition.

Though he said there is no bar to being president of both organizations, Dukhia, said he didn’t want to be splitting his attention. Two weeks after being nominated for BCFGA president, Dukhia was elected president of the B.C. Tree Fruit Co-operative.

“I am so busy with B.C. Tree Fruit, it is not fair,” said Dukhia, stressing the need for the two groups to work together.

“I think we can improve if the BCFGA and B.C. Tree Fruits work together,” said Dukhia. “We can have a new direction and put pressure on the government.”

Steele touched on that spirit of collaboration in his acceptance speech, praising the work of his fellow directors and executive and the passion they have for the industry.

“We work very well together. Our executive is a diverse group, and by golly, there is some heated debate at times but we all come to a common ground,” said Steele.

There are challenges and questions facing the industry, he said, like replant programs and increasing numbers of pests.

“We have a lot of them, a lot of invasive pests coming. Where we used to have one every five to 10 years, we’ve got them coming down every three to five,” said Steele. “We’ve got to be able to have the resources at the various levels in order to combat this or at least to control them.”

After Steele was declared president, a motion to open the floor to further nominations for vice-president failed, leaving Pinder Dhaliwal taking the post by acclamation as well.

The other six executive members of the BCFGA were also returned. Peter Simonsen, Ravinder Bains and Deep Brar were unopposed for the South Okanagan positions, while Sukhdev Goraya, Surjit Nagra and Tony Nijjar were returned and challenger Karm Gill was defeated in an election for North Okanagan positions. Both Gill and Dukhia are also on the board of the B.C. Tree Fruit Cooperative.

AgricultureBCFGA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

EDITORIAL: Managing wildfires

Wildfires have the potential to cause significant damage within our province

Peach Fest celebrates royalty with cruise

The Peach Fest Queen and Royalty made an unannounced cruise down Penticton’s Main Street

Okanagan, Creston cherry and apple farms in need of workers

The worker shortage is due to the COVID-19 restrictions on international travel

‘It’s just my job’: Off-duty Peachland paramedic saves choking girl downtown Penticton

Family vacationing in Penticton assisted by off-duty paramedic, who helps save 13-year-old

Opening night lineup for online Roots & Blues festival released

The first night of the festival on Aug. 14 will be stacked with favourites from previous years

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

North Okanagan ranch needs support to stay afloat

Founded in 1867, a fundraiser has been launched for the Historic O’Keefe Ranch

Video: Enraged man terrifies staff and customers at Shuswap restaurant

Video on Facebook shows the man hurling profanity at workers during the dinner rush on Aug. 7.

Pup stolen from Vernon temporary shelter reunited with owner

Nicola Sanders says her son’s puppy was ‘overjoyed’ to see her owner again

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Number of Kelowna-linked COVID-19 cases grows to 159

Interior Health reported four new cases region-wide on Friday, 18 remain active

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

Most Read