Ontario orchard rehab plan moves ahead

Ontario orchard and vineyard owners who want to pull up old trees and vines to make room for better varieties or new crops now have details on a federal/provincial support plan.

The orchards and vineyards transition program (OVTP), first announced in February, will cover tree and vine removal costs and help growers draft new strategic commodity plans.

A number of tender fruit and grape growers in Ontario have been hit hard by the closure of fruit and grape juice processing plants, the federal government said in a release Friday. The varieties of fruit grown for processing are not typically the same as those eaten fresh, meaning growers have to adapt their orchards or vineyards to new markets.

Agricorp, the province’s ag program delivery agency, will operate the plant removal portion of the program. The Vineland Research and Innovation Centre will handle the strategic planning component.

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

Eligible producers who have removed fruit trees or vines as of Oct. 25, 2007 or later will get assistance of up to $4,000 per hectare to cover some of the costs of removing plant stock.

Implementing changes to an orchard or vineyard is costly because of the time it takes for trees and vines to mature and provide a good return on investment, Ottawa noted in its release.

This funding follows financial assistance announced in November worth up to $45.6 million to help eradicate plum pox virus, a serious plant disease affecting tender fruit.

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