Bevan-Baker posed questions in legislature Thursday regarding this trend, comparing farm revenues from the mid 1970s to today.
Bevan-Baker explained that in the mid 1970s, farm revenues on P.E.I. totalled approximately $300 million, excluding government payments, and “consistently generated profits” of over $100 million.
Bevan-Baker says now those revenues are approximately $500 million a year but farm profits are in the order of $25 million, again outside of government payments.
“As fast as gross revenues have continued to rise, farming incomes have declined,” said Bevan-Baker. “What is your department doing to reverse this worrisome pattern of declining farm incomes?”
Alan McIsaac, minister of agriculture and fisheries, said his department is putting emphasis on farming technology.
“We are going to continue to use technology whatever that might be to make sure that our farmers thrive in this province.”
McIsaac said his department, along with the federal government and MP Lawrence MacAulay, are working together to make sure that P.E.I. has markets, not just old ones but new ones.
“(That way) we can increase the bottom line to our farmers and we will continue to do that from year to year,” said McIsaac.
Bevan-Baker remained unconvinced.
“I heard we are going to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years,” said Bevan-Baker.
Bevan-Baker said the provincial and national agriculture strategy has been to continue to develop exports and commodities for international markets but feels this is not a successful approach for a number of reasons.
“When will this provincial government unhitch itself from a failing strategy and recognize that the future prosperity of the Island agricultural sector lies in developing high value, healthy products for predominantly local markets with exports as only as secondary concern for surplus production?”
McIsaac said farmers couldn’t survive by simply feeding the P.E.I. population.
“Our farmers want to grow for the world, the world wants our crops and the world wants the quality product that we produce here on Canada’s food island.”
McIsaac said the big thing they are trying to work on is saving and improving the soil composition by moving into better rotational crop systems since many farmers can’t make money on second and third year crops.
McIsaac said they are also looking at bringing new crops to the province.
“What we are trying to do is get a crop that will rotate with our main crop of potatoes and return extra dollars into the pockets of our farmers.”