Committee makes recommendations to avoid fish kills

Ryan Ross
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Shawn Hill, executive director, P.E.I. Watershed Alliance, Dale Cameron, Trout Unlimited, and David Thompson, Croplife Canada, chat in this Guardian file photo.

A committee that was struck to help stop fish kills wants the government to buy land from farmers to help keep runoff out of waterways.

That was one of three main recommendations from the Action Committee for Sustainable Land Management that was established after a 2012 fish kill in Barclay Brook in western P.E.I.

John Jamieson, the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture's executive director who was also on the committee, was pleased with the recommendations.

"I think they're good," he said.

The committee's report, which was released in November, made 18 recommendations, including three that it considered key to future success of any farm management strategies near watersheds.

Those recommendations involved the need to implement soil conservation practices in fields next to watercourses and to have agricultural engineers examine fields as soon as possible after fish kills.

A third key recommendation called for the government to establish a $200,000 per year environmental impact fund to buy agricultural land along watercourses to take them out of production.

Jamieson said he expects most farmers will support that idea.

"I don't see any push back on any of the recommendations really from the farm community," he said.

But as for whether or not the government will move forward with any of the recommendations is still up in the air with Environment Minister Janice Sherry saying it's too early to say.

Sherry said there is a meeting planned for the end of March, which will include Agriculture Minister George Webster and various departmental officials to discuss the report, but she didn't know what would come of out of it.

"I would say it would be very premature for me to even venture a guess on that," she said.

What she did say was that a fund to buy agricultural land likely won't be included in the budget this spring.

"I would say that it would not be considered in this year's budget," she said.

Sherry said there were good things in the report, but the question is how the government moves forward with the recommendations.

"I think people are ready to roll up their sleeves and I think the recommendations are all within an acceptable range really," she said.

Jamieson said even though the committee has made its recommendations, the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture and the P.E.I. Potato Board are ready to keep pushing to make sure some of the changes are implemented.

"I think we continue to play an active role in seeing that these recommendations are moved forward," he said.

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/ryanrross

Organizations: P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, Action Committee for Sustainable Land Management, P.E.I. Potato Board

Geographic location: Barclay Brook

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  • Things have changed
    February 25, 2013 - 08:44

    Is the Potato Marketing Board run by the Federation of Agriculture now? The only one I hear talking about potato iusses is John Jamieson. The board used to have staff who could speak to the media and Islanders but now its only jameson. Why? Maybe we don't need two organizations. I think most farmers are doing good. When the same farmer keeps causing problems over and over again, and everyone else gets tarred due to this guy's lack of concern for the environment, it's unfair.

  • i see you
    February 23, 2013 - 11:14

    Remember when stewardship was a word that Island farmers used and understood? Remember flying over PEI and the hedge-rowed fields really did look like a patchwork quilt? And there was no blood red outline all around our beautiful home? I do, and I miss the values and pride of the good-old-days.

  • UPWESTER
    February 23, 2013 - 10:00

    In making 18 recomendations, all they succeed in doing is clouding the issue. Surely we don't need another 18 set of rules to correct one.Change and enforce the laws we already have on the books.Don't let farmers who break the law off on a technecality like the word "or", like one well known west prince farmer did.The second thing they could do is to remove George Webster as the environment minister.That's kinda like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    February 23, 2013 - 09:33

    Government is fooling the people into thinking it cares by letting these concerned groups make recommendations (that will never get implemented) if they cost money or ruffle some government insiders' farmland. When the farmers and the environmentalists get into a debate over what to do and make these recomendations Islanders lose. I am not a farmer but as I see it, until farming returns back to the ways it was done for centuries we are going to see more and more fish kils, and people kills too. The only real option here is to let the land lie dormant for 1 year out of seven so that the soil could replenish itself, then you would not require the massive amounts of pesticides that kills us all slowly. From what I read and understand crop rotation was a fundamental way of farming for a very long time. If something new doesn't work,swallow your pride, and return to the old tried and true ways. BIGGER IS NEVER USUALLY BETTER.

  • intobed
    February 23, 2013 - 09:12

    So the farmers want the provincial government to take more taxpayer's dollars that we don't have, and give them to the farmers in exchange for land the farmers can't use anyway. What? Has he world lost it's mind?

  • Ken
    February 23, 2013 - 08:55

    How about having the farmers establish their own fund to do this buyback, just like the fishermen had to create ways to establish funding to buy back lobster licenses.? A small levy or "environmental reserve fund " like the oil pollution fund in the oil industry , could be assessed on each acre of land put into row crop production and could create such a fund quite easily. This could be administered by the farm organizations as well. Why should the government have to fund this when it is the responsibility of the farmers ??

  • Sheepstack
    February 23, 2013 - 06:46

    So let me see if I have this right? The polluters are recommending that other taxpayers pay them for the land that they shouldn't be using anyway? I have a better idea: enact and enforce strong legislation for the benefit of all Islanders. Cost to the taxpayer - zero. It really is time to hold those who are poisoning the water and land accountable for their actions and stop rewarding them for their destructive practices.

  • don
    February 23, 2013 - 05:58

    to start with what does Environment Minister Janice Sherry know about farming she is a city girl? how many years has she spent on a farm? 1. more buffer zones. 2 STIFFER FINES and NO patronage to mla's family members. but we all know that part will never stop.

  • intobed
    February 23, 2013 - 01:12

    The only thing the PEI Federation of Agriculture recommends is the movement of taxpayer's dollars into farming corporation's profits. The fish kills will continue to happen, PEI's cancer rates will continue to lead the country, and our rivers will continue to have major algae problems. We desperately need a different way of farming. Oh yes, the PEIFA lobbied for years to have the HST implemented, too.

  • Owen Stephenson
    February 22, 2013 - 23:38

    ... OR .... people could keep the land and farm it with some due respect to the watercourses. Ploughing the bjeesus out of the field every year and then soaking it with synthetic fertilizer and pesticides is a relatively recent practice and one that has worse issues than just fish kill. Think of the fields on the watersheds as a good place to try out some more sustainable agriculture instead of having the government coffers solve the problem.