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A Fruitful Century

Chronicle: 1978

A fruitful century
Dr. D.V. Fisher presents the “B.C.F.G.A. Compact Apple Orchard Centennial Trophy” to Carl Jentsch of Oliver at the 1978 Horticultural Forum.Courtesy BCMAF

I want to tell you as Minister of Agriculture that 1 support marketing boards and orderly marketing of farm produce-and so does every other minister of agriculture in Canada. Him Hewitt, B.C. Minister of Agriculture, 1978.)

– At the B.C.F.G.A. Convention, Charlie Bernhardt, who had negotiated with the provincial government for the initial five year Farm Income Assurance Program, received the Queen’s Jubilee medal for extraordinary and exemplary service to agriculture.

– Richard Bullock was elected President of the B.C.F.G.A.

– Christine Dendy of East Kelowna became the first woman to hold a major elected portfolio in the B.C.F.G.A. by taking a place on the B.C. Tree Fruits/Sun-Rype Board.

– In July, the B.C. Land Commission implemented the controversial homesite severance policy, whereby a homesite could be subdivided off agricultural land at the time of sale. The B.C.F.G.A. immediately registered an objection against this erosion of the Agricultural Land Reserve. The organization was against the further fragmentation of farmland in the province.

– The B.C.F.G.A. expressed increasing concern about the amount of fruit which was being shipped out of the Interior without inspection or licencing. The activities of the independents and fruitleggers were becoming more obvious.

– The B.C.F.G.A. Executive worked for harmony between provincial Farm Income Assurance and federal farm stabilization.

– Sun-Rype Products Ltd. did not have enough lower quality local fruit to process, so it began importing apple concentrate.

At the 1978 Horticultural Forum.Courtesy BCMAF

Vignette: My Most Unremarkable Career
by Christine Dendy

(Christine Dendy was a B.C.F.G.A. delegate, 1976-77; a Director of B.C. Tree Fruits/Sun Rype Ltd., 1977-79; a Director of the B.C. Tree Fruit Marketing Board, 1977-79; Chairman of the B.C. Tree Fruit Marketing Board, 1980-84; Chairman of the Council of Marketing Boards of B.C., 1980-84.)

As a note for fruit industry trivia, apart from being the first female to hold an elected position on the “industry” boards of B.C. Tree Fruits, Sun- Rype, and the Fruit Board, I suppose I can also claim to have been, at twenty-two, the youngest member to be elected. I found my fellow growers most accepting and respectful of my participation and I was always surprised that more women were not more active; there are certainly many who are vitally involved in orcharding and who would make very capable directors. There do not appear to be the sexist barriers in the farming community that are found in many other sectors of society, possibly because farmers have always had far more serious threats to their livelihood than women could ever pose!

In reflecting on my short involvement (eight years, five as chairman) on the B.C. Tree Fruit Marketing Board or “Fruit Board”, it is ironic that our “accomplishments” were the rescinding of the fundamental regulations on which B.C. Tree Fruits as a central marketing agency for the growers of the B.C.F.G.A. had rested: the domestic and export regulations which licensed B.C. Tree Fruits as the sole marketing agency for all the growers, and the pooling regulation which enabled the central pooling of the fruit and determination of the proceeds.

My term of service on the Fruit Board (’77 to ’84) spanned a turbulent period of self examination and transition in the industry, a period of exploring and debating whether the principles of one-desk selling could succeed without regulation (and means of enforcement), and whether, in fact, the grower body of the B.C.F.G.A. was still prepared to support it. Adding to the philosophical dilemma was the urgent need to address the effect of technological change, and the real (and perceived) inadequacies of the central pooling system to cope with disparities of fruit quality and packing capabilities. With compulsory membership gone, the health of a voluntary system depended on growers’ trusting that all were benefiting fairly from the cooperative system, and that it would result in a better overall return than the alternatives. The confidence was not always there.

By the late ’70s, the rosier expectations of the B.C. Farm Income Assurance program were fading. Cash flow was an increasing problem; direct marketing by the growers was uncontrollable. The executive of the B.C.F.G.A. was clearly unprepared to resort to the regulatory powers of the Fruit Board, and without the general support of the grower body, enforcement of any regulatory solution would have been futile. In 1981 we rescinded the (dormant) domestic marketing regulation.

Alternatives which could retain the benefits of central selling and central pooling were researched and debated. The Hudson report of 1973 was reexamined; new internal and external organizational studies were undertaken. Overall integration of the storing, packing, and marketing functions was generally recommended, along with a system of planning and control of physical facilities. But the differences between regions and packinghouse policies and facilities was too great to find a consensus.

1978 British Columbia Tree Fruit Marketing Board. Front row: (from left) Walter Powell, Richard Bullock, Christine Dendy, Arnold Pedersen, Jim Kitaura. Back row: Alex Watt (government observer), L. Truscott, George Fraser, Fred Marshall, George Urban.

The debate of the Roytenberg Report in 1982 was the last attempt at integrating the industry and retaining a strong central selling nature. But with the withdrawal of three of the smaller packinghouses from central marketing, and the major remaining houses pushing for increased control over the marketing (and proceeds) of their own fruit, the trend was clear. Integration was a dead issue. In 1983, after much debate and a special general meeting, the B.C.F.G.A. voted to allow pooling on a packinghouse basis, a change which effectively changed B.C. Tree Fruits from a central selling agency to a fairly cooperative brokerage. We rescinded the pooling regulation.

Finally, in 1983, the then-independent packinghouse of R. H. Macdonald appealed to the B.C. Marketing Board (the government supervisory board) to overturn a decision of the Fruit Marketing Board not to grant them an export license (thereby upholding the licensing of B.C. Tree Fruits Ltd. as the sole export marketing agency for B.C.) The appeal hearing lasted several days, going into extensive examination of expert witnesses on the strengths and weaknesses of a sole marketing agency for export development and the interests of the majority vs the minority. Notably absent was representation from the B.C.F.G.A., which had reversed a decision to testify shortly before the appeal hearing commenced. After several months, which encompassed the B.C.F.G.A. ’84 Convention decision to ratify the changes to pooling by the packinghouse, the B.C. Marketing Board decided to rule against B.C. Tree Fruits maintaining its exclusive export agency status. The story of a remarkable piece of marketing legislation was over for B.C. Tree Fruits Ltd. and the B.C.F.G.A.

With the future need for a marketing board in question and a farming catastrophe at hand, it was time to conclude my unremarkable career in industry politics.