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Gov’t will support Ontario grape growers

Gov’t will support Ontario grape growers

The Canadian and Ontario governments are committing up to $2 million in cost-share funding to help grape growers invest in technology and research 

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer
Farms.com

The federal and provincial governments have designated up to $2 million for projects to support grape growers in Ontario, a Feb. 10 Ontario government release stated. The announcement was made by Ernie Hardeman, provincial minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, and Chris Bittle, member of parliament for St. Catharines at Henry of Pelham Estate Winery.

"Canada's vineyards are a source of pride and have become an important part of our national economy and local grape growers are major contributors to the economy here in our region," Bittle said on behalf of Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food.

The funding will contribute to cost-share opportunities through the Marketing and Vineyard Improvement Program (MVIP). MVIP has been ongoing for four years, but will now be part of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, Debbie Zimmerman, CEO of Grape Growers of Ontario, told Farms.com.

“It’s a continuation of a program, the difference is the federal funding,” she said.

The funding from the Canadian government is “continuing to help us expand,” she explained. The cost-share funding helps growers invest in vineyard improvements such as bird netting, irrigation, and environmental monitoring equipment. Wind machines are also a major investment for growers to help manage temperature and unpredictable weather impact on grapes. Wind machine technology is “really important to sustain the crop.”

The investment “is not just for vineyards, there’s also money for research,” Zimmerman explained.

Research initiatives will focus on “disease and (other factors) that don’t allow us to take our crop to where we’d like it to be … and better understanding climate change,” she said.

Finding ways to combat disease and pest pressure, as well as adaptation to changing climate patterns are essential for the grape and wine industry to continue to thrive.

In Ontario, there are 18,000 acres of vineyards and 500 families growing wine grapes, Zimmerman said.

“Our farm gate this year was $108 million but we turned that into almost $4 billion of economic impact for the government of Ontario,” she added.

There has also been investment in the research and marketing branch of the Ontario wine sector, however this round of funding is “really focused on the vineyards,” Zimmerman said.

“It’s been a culmination of support,” she explained.

Supporting those 500 families to sustain their crops is “the difference that this kind of investment in technology has made. We’ve been able to keep a full crop to make sure that there’s lots of Ontario wine on the shelf,” Zimmerman said.

The cost-share funding will be administered through Agricorp. The intake for applications opens at 10 a.m. on March 5, and details can be found here.

JHVEPhoto\iStock\Getty Image Plus photo

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