© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Potato farmers Alex Docherty, left, and Blake MacDonald, walk to the P.E.I. Provincial Court in Charlottetown Friday. They were to be sentenced on charges of planting their crwop on too steep a slope.
Two Island potato farmers who were charged with planting their crop on a hill that was too steep were found guilty Friday in provincial court in Charlottetown.
Alex Docherty, who is Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty’s husband, and his brother-in-law Blake MacDonald appeared before Judge Nancy Orr to hear the verdict more than a month after their trial ended in August.
Docherty and MacDonald will each have to pay $3,150 in fines for violating the Environmental Protection Act in 2012.
The farmers were accused of cultivating a row crop on land that had a slope greater than nine per cent.
The penalty guidelines related to the offence call for a $1,000 fine for every hectare that is in violation and the legislation allows for the cultivation of one hectare on land that is too steep. That led to the men paying on 3.15 hectares instead of the 4.15 hectares the potato crop covered.
During the four-day trial, the court heard from several witnesses, including a surveyor who verified the part of the field that had potatoes growing on it had a slope greater than nine per cent.
In delivering the verdict, Orr said she was satisfied Docherty and MacDonald cultivated potatoes on 4.15 hectares of land with a slope that was too steep.
The field didn’t belong to Docherty or MacDonald and they were renting it from the owners who lived in British Columbia.
Several witnesses testified about the men’s connections to the field’s crop, including a Canadian Food Inspection Agency employee, someone with P.E.I.’s Agriculture Insurance Corporation and the conservation officer who started the investigation.
She told the court she saw trucks in the field that belonged to MacDonald and Skye View Farms, of which Docherty is the president.
Orr said that while no one saw the men personally cultivating the land, she was satisfied their involvement and actions constituted cultivation.