Nova Scotia

Fire blight relief money on the way for Nova Scotia apple, pear growers

Apple and pear farmers in Nova Scotia will be getting up to $2.69 million from the federal and provincial governments to help get orchards back up and running after a fire blight outbreak that was started by post tropical storm Arthur.

'These funds will help tree fruit growers to get up to speed in a very difficult situation'

June bugs crawl on a pear tree affected by fire blight at Reed Valley Orchard near Cynthania, Ky. (Associated Press)

Apple and pear farmers in Nova Scotia will be getting up to $2.69 million from the federal and provincial governments to help get orchards back up and running following a fire blight outbreak that was started by post tropical storm Arthur.

"These funds will help tree fruit growers to get up to speed in a very difficult situation," said Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture who — along with Scott Brison, president of the Treasury Board — made the announcement Tuesday night via teleconference from Ottawa to a room full of growers in Wolfville.

"At first we thought [fire blight] wasn't going to be too serious. But as we looked more and more it's become obvious it was very serious for the apple industry," said Keith Colwell, Nova Scotia's minister of agriculture, who was also part of the announcement.

Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Treasury Board president Scott Brison announce fire blight funding via teleconference from Ottawa to a room full of growers at the Old Orchard Inn in Wolfville Tuesday night. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

The money will be dispersed over 5 years. The federal government is covering 60 per cent of the cost and the Nova Scotia government will cover the rest.

An estimated 95 per cent of orchards in Nova Scotia were affected in some way by the fire blight after the 2014 storm. It's a disease that can result in the loss of branches and tree structure. In severe cases, when the bacteria progresses into the trunk or infects the rootstock, entire trees can be killed.

Robert Piell says his orchard, Town Plot Orchards in Port Williams, lost 4,000 trees.

"It was demoralizing. It was hard to get up in the morning in those days," said Piell. ​The best farmers could do was spray, treat with copper, and remove infected plants.

Slow recovery

Stephen van Meekeran lost all his pears trees, and 20 per cent of his apple production.

"It could be up to ten or 12 years before we get back to the same level of production," said van Meekeran, adding he was glad to hear relief was coming.

"It definitely helps to get us back on our feet. To replant and stay vital," he said.

​The fire blight initiative will pay to replace trees, get the outbreak under control and minimize the potential for damage in the future.

It's being delivered under the AgriRecovery Framework, which lets the government respond to unforeseen natural disasters that result in huge costs for producers.

Andrew Parker, president of Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association, estimates fire blight will likely cost growers $20 million over seven years. He said in a statement that he's appreciative of the relief money.

"This will help the Nova Scotia apple industry reinvest money to continue to produce high-value fruit and capitalize on the strong export market the industry has developed," Parker said.

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