Winnipeg recently played host to Canada’s horticulture industry.
Around 200 members of Canadian Horticulture Council gathered for the organization’s annual general meeting March 14-16.
The Vegetable Growers Association of Manitoba, Peak of the Market, Keystone Vegetable Producers Association and Keystone Potato Producers Association are among Manitoba organizations represented, joining members from across Canada.
“It basically allows us to have a unified voice at the national level and to work with the rest of the horticultural industry,” Keith Kuhl, council president and owner of Southern Potato in Winkler, Man., said. “We also work to establish relationships with other national organizations, so we work very closely with the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and with the DRC, the Dispute Resolution Corporation, which are both intricately tied to the (horticulture) industry.”
Kuhl also said the group works to establish relationships with all the other agricultural national organizations to allow them to speak with a unified voice whenever their interests were aligned.
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Kuhl said he expected resolutions on Growing Forward 3, the eventual successor to Canada’s current five-year policy framework, to emerge as one of the meetings’ major topics. Labour and temporary foreign workers, an increasingly polarizing topic in Ontario and British Columbia with implications for Manitoba operations drawing employment from overseas, was also expected to garner attention. Evolving food safety requirements were also expected on the agenda.
Tracy Shinners-Carnelley, director of research and quality enhancement with Peak of the Market and member of the council’s standing crop protection committee, named pest management among horticulture’s common challenges.
“Whether you’re growing potatoes or you’re growing blueberries, there’s common elements around our regulatory framework in Canada and pesticide registration system and, certainly, one of the long-standing priorities of the Canadian Horticultural Council is to really work towards encouraging our regulatory agencies to harmonize with the markets like the U.S. when it comes to pesticides because it is such an important part of trade and can be a barrier to trade,” she said.
The Canadian Horticulture Council has previously represented producers with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency when pesticide re-evaluations or policy changes have been considered.
Trade was also expected to draw intense discussion, Kuhl said, as the new U.S. administration has expressed a desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, a suggestion with significant implications to the export-heavy horticulture industry.
The three-day gathering included reports from financial and planning committees, and commodity-specific committee meetings. The Industry Standards and Food Safety Committee presented its report March 15, preceded by talks on trade and marketing and followed by plant protections and the environment on March 16.
Social and networking events were scattered across the three days.
Kuhl also pointed to the meeting’s location in Winnipeg, in his home province. The annual general meeting has commonly been hosted in Ottawa.
“One of my goals was to, in the AGM in my hometown or my home province, allow us to feature Manitoba and Winnipeg,” Kuhl said.
It is the last year the council will have a Manitoban at the helm. Kuhl, who has held the position for four years (the maximum allowed by council bylaws), will step aside for former vice-president Alvin Keenan of Prince Edward Island.
The first president to hold his position more than a year, Kuhl says the council is standing on strong ground for his replacement.
Since taking the role, Kuhl has overseen development of the next strategic plan, which will guide the council over the next three years.
“Certainly I’m very happy that we have that in place, assuming that the members will adopt it,” he said. “We’ve also significantly improved the financial health of the organization from what it was four years ago. We’ve taken various steps to do that. We’ve worked hard at building a very strong team within the office staff and we continue to work at establishing lasting relationships with people in the government, both senior civil servants as well as elected officials.”