Federation courted by candidates

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Green Party Leader Peter Bevan Baker. Guardian file photo.

Farmers receive vote of confidence from Liberal, Conservative hopefuls

Delegates attending the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture annual meeting heard some welcome comments Friday, affirming the importance of farming and decrying the growing attacks against the sector in the press and social media.

The federation had invited candidates seeking the leadership of the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties to address the meeting and all four were lavish in their praise — perhaps not necessarily seeking support for the upcoming conventions but certainly for the looming spring election campaign.

The three PC candidates were all critical of increasing regulations, barriers and red tape facing farmers and accused government of doing little to stop the growing divide and suspicions between rural and urban. Darlene Compton expressed concern about the growing influence of special interest groups who are quite happy to lay blame for any environmental issue at the doorstep of the agricultural community.

Rob Lantz singled out the Department of Environment for criticism but the candidate should tread carefully here. That department is expected to err on the side of protection for all Islanders and can’t be faulted for vigorous enforcement which will hopefully keep our air, water and soil as safe as possible for everyone.

Wade MacLauchlan said farmers are as concerned as anyone about the environment and pride themselves in being good stewards of the land.

It was interesting that there were few negative comments about the provincial Department of Agriculture. Minister George Webster, a potato farmer himself, is widely viewed as an effective minister who worked hard on behalf of the industry. Mr. Webster announced recently he wouldn’t be re-offering in the next election and the loss of the deputy premier will be a setback.

He was the target of a surprisingly bitter attack last week by Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker after Mr. Webster said things had improved for farmers under his watch.

Mr. Bevan-Baker had nothing good to say about the current state of agriculture or Mr. Webster. The facts are that beef prices for farmers have shot upward, pork prices have stabilized, potato prices are solid and total acres have increased to almost 90,000. Blueberry and soybean acreages are surging and the agricultural sector hasn’t been as healthy for some time.

 Mr. Webster can’t take all the credit but he has been minister for eight years, the last three or four which have been reasonably good ones. Farm income has been a driving factor for the P.E.I. economy, a fact noted by Mr. MacLauchlan who couldn’t resist the good-natured jab that farmers are loathe to acknowledge when times are prosperous.

 Mr. Bevan-Baker then expressed his displeasure at not being invited to speak at the federation meeting. A spokesman said only candidates were invited so delegates could gauge their support for agriculture. He then said the Green party had never approached the federation before formulating its farm policy. It all made for an interesting sideshow to the annual meeting.

Lest Mr. Bevan-Baker think he was singled out, NDP Leader Mike Redmond also wasn’t invited to address delegates. Mr. Redmond, a strident critic of recent fish kills, is himself now dabbling with farming in Valleyfield.

It should be noted the only fish kill reported in 2014 apparently happened when a concerned farmer tried to plant grass to enhance a buffer zone.

For Islanders with lingering concerns over wells, underground water issues or aquifers, the moratorium on deep-water wells is now in its 12th year.

The only example where deep-water wells have caused a problem has been in the Winter River area when the insatiable thirst of the City of Charlottetown has resulted in the watershed being sucked dry during recent summers.

Government also took the opportunity Friday to unveil a Farmland Financing Program, aimed to provide financing to new and expanding Island farmers. It was developed based on industry advice and could be a fitting legacy for Mr. Webster.

Organizations: P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, Islanders, Department of Environment Department of Agriculture Green Party

Geographic location: P.E.I., Valleyfield, Charlottetown Iceland

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Recent comments

  • disappointed in misrepresentation
    February 03, 2015 - 09:53

    I am not sure who wrote this, but it is so obviously slanted it infuriates me. Why is it that a letter-writer must sign their name, but the editorial writers from the Guardian don't? Regardless, I would like to address a couple of statements that make me think the writer should do a little more research. Firstly, to say that we have anywhere close to vigorous enforcement is laughable. With 2, yes, 2! enforcement officers covering the entire island, this statement is off the charts for ludicrousness. These officers work hard to protect, but are at their wits end most days as to how to get the job done. The fact that there have been a few fines handed out this year, only speaks to the fact that islanders are finally speaking up for themselves and their rights to clean air, water and soil. Secondly, to say potato prices are solid may be true, but it is also misleading. The following info from the PEI Agri Alliance gives the whole picture, and it ain't pretty: PEI’s industrial agricultural model is not just an environmental issue - it is not working economically. In a report issued in 2013, the Prince Edward Island AgriAlliance took a preliminary look at farm profitability. They found that PEI farm assets increased by only one-third of that seen in our neighbouring provinces, yet increases in debt levels were roughly the same. Farmers on the mainland incurred debt to increase their asset base, and thus improve their equity position; this trend was not seen on PEI. The report concluded that Island farmers incurred debt to cover net losses. To quote from the report: “Simply put - this trend line is not sustainable.” I don't know about the rest of your readers, but I expect more from the Guardian.

    • In Total Agreement
      February 04, 2015 - 22:21

      I couldn't agree more. Well said!

  • Jeremy
    February 02, 2015 - 21:06

    When The Guardian puts out such biased pieces such as this, the author should be obligated to attach his name. This is not objective in any way. Very discouraging to see such slanted reporting. I suspect the author has family in the farming industry, and that is why the name has been left out.

  • South Shore
    February 02, 2015 - 17:45

    The attitude of the federation is perhaps the reason so many Islanders have concerns about the current agricultural practices . The Federation doesnt seem to show any signs of concern for the increasing pesticide levels or nitrate levels in our ground water or the deterioration of our surface waters as evidenced by the numerous anoxic events occurring around the Island. Such attitudes cultivate hard line responses. The FederatioAlaniusn better remember that fewer and fewer voters every year have an attachment to agriculture and their resistance to meaningful change is alienating many people living both in the cities and in the country,

  • Former NDPer
    February 02, 2015 - 11:38

    It is developed in a vacuum if Island farmers are not consulted with in which case the NDP and Greens did not. Effective policy has to involve those it has an affect on. Greens and NDP can't have it both ways and talk out of both sides of their mouths.

    • dumb
      February 02, 2015 - 11:47

      What a stupid comment. It was the NDP and Green parties that were not invited to sit at the table.

    • Former whatever,
      February 03, 2015 - 12:29

      If you think the Federation of Agriculture really represents farmers, you need to talk to a wider variety of farmers. Try talking to farmers who are making a profit and are not deeply in debt. We have farmers who grow food for Islanders and I support every single one of them and then we have farmers who grow for Irving and they are pretty much screwed, if they don't know it already they'll soon find out.

    • Smarter than this
      February 04, 2015 - 22:25

      Surely you don't buy the propaganda you are being sold by the Federation of Agriculture. You must realize that a person could consult with far better sources for alternative ways to invigorate farming here on PEI than the Fed of Ag! That's laughable! Look at the situation they create. Why would anyone go to them for advice? Any politician that was basing their agriculture policy on the lobbying done by the Fed of Ag or the Potato Board should lose your vote.

  • robert
    February 02, 2015 - 11:29

    Of course the money give a way to new farmers was based on industry advise. The working people of PEI can now through their taxes get the 'opportunity' to help young farmer to pay top price to their fathers and mothers for the family farm grants. An absolute stupid idea, especially considering that out of Province demands., recently reported, will boost farmland prices. Of coursed being concocted by the Ghiz government, it will benefit those who already have, and dismiss the rest of us to tax slavery. Thanks Ghiz, glad you are leaving before you can do more harm.

  • From the Green website
    February 02, 2015 - 11:21

    Green Party agriculture policy not “developed in a vacuum”. For executive director of the Federation of Agriculture John Jamieson to conclude, as he did in comments today, that the Green Party agricultural policy is being forged in a vacuum, is arrogance of the highest order. It suggests that the Federation of Agriculture represents the one and only source of information on agricultural policy on PEI, and without it, one is working blind. “Since I became leader two years ago, I have had one-on-one meetings with international food supply expert Mark Lapping, who advised president Clinton, bureaucrats here on PEI, Island farmers from tip to tip, both conventional and others such as organic producers, mixed farmers, micro-winery producers, micro-brewers and cheese makers,” stated Peter Bevan-Baker, leader of the Green Party of Prince Edward Island. “These producers are farmers and are also part of what a sustainable, vibrant and robust future agricultural industry will look like on PEI. The Federation of Agriculture represents one approach to farming, but it is not the only vision of what agriculture might look like into the future on PEI.” The Green Party will be releasing its full platform within weeks, and like all policies, whether they be economic development and job creation, education, health care, energy, governance or any other issue, the agricultural plan has been developed in consultation with, and to best serve Islanders. “I think that some Islanders will be surprised at the depth and breadth of our platform, and at how much of it will speak to their concerns,” continued Bevan-Baker. “We are the Party which is offering Islanders something other than the ping-pong politics of the past, and I can’t wait to introduce our platform to Islanders over the coming months. I think a lot of Islanders will realize, when they hear what we have to say, that they are more Green than they think.”

    • Sorry
      February 02, 2015 - 19:00

      No the height of arrogance is a political party that contacts an American to develop farm policy rather than Island farmers even when anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of agriculture will tell you that US and Canada have quite different farm systems. It seems like Bevan-Baker does not believe Islanders are smart enough to offer anything to him or his party.

    • Also Sorry
      February 03, 2015 - 12:24

      Sorry, of course we wouldn't want to learn anything from international experts. It's not like the 'bureaucrats here on PEI, Island farmers from tip to tip, both conventional and others such as organic producers, mixed farmers, micro-winery producers, micro-brewers and cheese makers' would have anything helpful to add. Islanders are a lot smarter than you think Sorry. They are smart enough to know that when Crop Life, Bayer, Monsanto, Syngenta and Irving are paying for the message it might be better to look further a field for reliable information.

    • Smarter than this
      February 04, 2015 - 22:32

      Poor, confused, Sorry. Considering the state of the Island, I think looking to outside experts for ideas is the only logical choice. Granted, Bevan-Baker's platform would suggest he has consulted with a plethora of local farmers also, but no logical person could blame him for seeking expert opinion elsewhere. And furthermore, the only group we can say definitively that he didn't consult when making policy was the Federation of Agriculture. Are you familiar with the Federation of Agriculture? If you are, you and the rest of PEI already know why he didn't. Would you reach out to a lobbying group to develop policy for Islanders? Lobby groups will find you on their own. You don't look for them.

    • Jennifer
      February 04, 2015 - 22:35

      Seems to me that 'Sorry' might actually be John Jamieson. I don't think anyone else would wonder why the Federation of Agriculture wasn't consulted for policy making. lol Remember, the mandate of the Greens is benefitting Islanders, not the Irvings.