Ont. orchard transition program gets top-up, extension

Ontario apple, tender fruit and grape growers wanting to remove unproductive vines or trees have another $2 million in funds to do so and another two months to apply for them.

The province on Tuesday announced a $2 million top-up and a new deadline of March 31, 2010 to apply for the final year of funding through the federal/provincial Orchards and Vineyards Transition Program (OVTP).

Eligible producers can get $1,618.74 per acre toward their orchard and/or vineyard stock removal and disposal costs.

“Applications will be processed on a first come first served basis, so growers are encouraged to apply early,” provincial ag program delivery agency Agricorp said in a separate notice Wednesday.

Growers who are accepted into the OVTP must complete tree and/or vine removals and contact Agricorp by Nov. 30, 2010.

“We recognize that grape, apple and tender fruit growers had a particularly challenging year, and that it is important to help as many of them as possible to maintain competitiveness in the industry,” provincial Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell said in a release Wednesday.

The federal government noted it has already budgeted $22.3 million for the OVTP, including about $1 million to develop regional industry strategic plans. OVTP applications totalling about $18.7 million have been received so far, the province said.

OVTP funding is meant to cover tree and vine removal costs and help growers draft new strategic commodity plans.

The program, first announced in February 2008, was developed when tender fruit and grape growers in Ontario found themselves hit hard by the closure of fruit and grape juice processing plants and needing to adapt their orchards or vineyards to new markets — meaning new varieties, such as those grown for eating fresh rather than processing.

Making changes in an orchard or vineyard is known to be costly because of the time it takes for trees and vines to mature before they can provide a return on investment.

Growers with a minimum of 1.236 acres of orchards or vineyards can apply to the OVTP if they commit to keeping the land available to agriculture for five years.

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