Federation of Agriculture fulfills responsibilities at annual meeting

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PEIFA’s position on agricultural wells follows long-standing efforts to promote industry in environmentally sustainable manner

By Alvin Keenan (commentary)

Alvin Keenan, P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture

I read with interest the editorial in the February 5th Guardian where it appears that you have an issue with the decision by the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture to close the resolution process to members only. This decision to close this portion of the meeting was taken following the 2013 AGM and had nothing to do with the issue of agricultural irrigation wells.

For the past three years, the Federation has made the final portion of the meeting an in camera session so that members can speak freely among themselves. During our 2013 AGM post-mortem, it was decided to extend this to the resolutions process. This is a common move by many organizations and allows the paying members the opportunity to set policy through open debate. I fully expect this policy will be extended to our AGMs in the future.

There is no doubt that the issue of lifting the moratorium for agricultural irrigation wells has captured the interest of farmers, Islanders and the media. Last week at the 73rd Annual Meeting of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, our organization took a stand on this issue by passing a resolution that says the organization will support the lifting of the moratorium providing that sound science indicates that it can be done without detriment to the environment and that, if the moratorium is lifted, there be adequate controls put in place for the siting and management of the wells.

This resolution recognizes that water is a public resource that needs to be managed in a responsible way by government. It also recognizes that there may be opportunities to use the resource wisely for the betterment of the economy on P.E.I. The position taken by the Federation is consistent with the position taken by the P.E.I. Potato Board.

In leading up to our Annual Meeting, the Board of the PEIFA recognized the need to provide our members with the best information so that they can make an informed decision on the well issue. It was through this process that the Federation contacted the P.E.I. Department of Environment and agreed to have Bruce Raymond speak to our members on the P.E.I. Water Extraction Policy and on the quantity of water available on P.E.I. and how much is currently being utilized.

This presentation was very informative and based on a number of scientific studies the province has completed or reviewed over the past number of years. The presentation was open to all, and, in fact, members of the media, politicians, government and the general public attended. Shortly after Mr. Raymond’s presentation, it was made available on the government website for viewing and we were happy to play a small role in getting this information out to the public. I do not agree with your comment that closing the meeting had any impact on clarifying the issue for farmers, the media or the public in fact, the opposite is closer to the facts.

The Federation’s position on agricultural wells follows our long-standing efforts to promote the agriculture industry in an environmentally sustainable manner. Over the past year alone the Federation has promoted a range of environmental initiatives. We hired an agrologist trained in nutrient management and we provided that person to the Kensington North Watersheds Association where they directed all of his work-related activities.

We have worked very closely with government and the farmers in the Barclay Brook watershed following the fish kills and, last fall, thousands of dollars was spent implementing soil conservation structures in the area. We continue to work with these farmers today on a variety of activities designed to reduce the risk of fish kills.

The Federation has signed a MOU with a variety of partners to promote nutrient stewardship across the Island and through this we hired a researcher to work closely with Island farmers. We also provide the services of a technician who will provide sprayer calibration free of charge to Federation members.

This person also works to promote technologies that reduce the number of amount of crop protectant used. These are just a few of the environmental activities this organization promotes to its members on regular basis.

Again, I want to reiterate that the Federation of Agriculture, being P.E.I.’s oldest and largest farm organization, has a responsibility to provide our members with the best possible information when they are setting policy and that they have the ability to set policy in a forum that allows them to freely express their opinions.

We also have a responsibility to ensure that our members are economically viable but in an environmentally responsible manner. All of these responsibilities have been accomplished during our recent Annual General Meeting.

- Alvin Keenan of New Zealand is president of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture

Organizations: P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, P.E.I. Potato Board, Board of the PEIFA PEI Department Kensington North Watersheds Association

Geographic location: Iceland, Barclay Brook, New Zealand

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