A British Columbia court has dismissed a claim from Okanagan growers that a mandatory levy on Ambrosia apples violates their constitutional rights. This means they have to pay over $30,000 in delinquent fees. Judge Andrew Tam ruled on the dispute, explaining why the fee is imposed and why it is allowed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The New Tree Fruit Varieties Development Council was suing Devin Jell, Janine Jell, Gartrell Heritage Farms and Sun-Oka fruit farms for levies dating back to 2016 and 2017. The fee is imposed at a rate of two cents per pound, and the amount due was $31,621.78.
In a counter-claim, the farmers argued they should not have to pay those fees and that they should be reimbursed for those they did pay in 2018 and 2019.
Tam noted that the fee itself was the only real requirement of being associated with the council. While the association with the council via the fee was not voluntary, Tam said it was constitutional because it did not "threaten any core liberty interest." Also, the judge found that the council's formation and activities were likely instrumental in the Ambrosia apple becoming commercially viable in B.C. and beyond.
The farmers were ordered to pay the outstanding fees and their claim to be reimbursed was dismissed.