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Robert Henderson gives state-of-the-province address to P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture

Agriculture Minister Robert Henderson delivered the department’s annual state-of-farming address at the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture’s annual general meeting on Friday in Charlottetown. Henderson said total farm cash receipts in 2016 was $487 million with potatoes accounting for over half.
Agriculture Minister Robert Henderson delivered the department’s annual state-of-farming address at the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture’s annual general meeting on Friday in Charlottetown. Henderson said total farm cash receipts in 2016 was $487 million with potatoes accounting for over half. - Dave Stewart

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Last year was an “optimistic year’’ in P.E.I. agriculture, with successes coming in the potato, dairy and blueberry industries, says the minister of agriculture.

Robert Henderson gave the department’s state-of-the-industry speech Friday at the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture’s annual general meeting in Charlottetown.

Last spring, there were 88,000 acres of potatoes planted throughout the province. Total farm cash receipts for 2016 were $487 million.

“Potatoes alone represented over 50 per cent of this $487 million,’’ Henderson said. “This past year, potato producers completed 41 soil conservation projects with the department, receiving approximately $375,000 in Agriculture Stewardship Program funding.’’

The minister also talked about how farmers are embracing technology, explaining that drones have been introduced into the province’s land management system.

“The use of drones allows for better data being collected more efficiently. Our staff won an award for innovation in the public sector by introducing this technology.’’

The dairy sector also continues to see increased production with increased demand for products such as butter.

“Our food producers are becoming more innovative, exporting P.E.I. products around the world and building our reputation as ‘Canada’s Food Island’.’’
-Robert Henderson

Henderson said the dairy industry also received an award recently. Mactalla Farms was given the distinction of being named a Holstein Canada Master Breeder, which he said reflects the quality of dairy genetics in the province.

In addition, interest in certified organic production continues to grow and producers are expanding to meet demand. Speaking of organic production, Heart Beet Organics, a Darlington operation run by Verena Varga and Amy Smith, picked up the annual Gilbert R. Clements Award for excellence in environmental farm planning.

Henderson said the blueberry sector continues to exceed previous production levels, although he noted there might be some excess in inventory, and the province is also experiencing significant growth in apple acreage.

The minister also spoke about the state of the province’s agricultural industry. He said experts say that Canada and the world face a period of slow or no growth but his government is confident the “mighty Island’’ can use its small size to its advantage to do well.

“Our food producers are becoming more innovative, exporting P.E.I. products around the world and building our reputation as ‘Canada’s Food Island’.’’

He also told farmers that in April there will be a new five-year multilateral framework agreement called the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP). This will replace Growing Forward 2 which expires on March 31. CAP focuses on markets and trade, science, research and innovation, risk management and value-added agriculture and agri-food processing.

A new focus of CAP will be environmental sustainability, climate change and public trust.

Henderson said CAP is a $3 billion national agreement, a program that will see a total investment of $164 million in P.E.I., $37 million for non-business risk management programs and $127 million of BRM programming.

“Farmers, get your CAPs on, roll up your sleeves and let's take advantage of these programs,’’ he said.

The minister also touched on his department’s goals – strategies that encourage new product and new market developments; developing a food cluster that promotes food security and safety; developing and initiating a local food initiative that promotes better understanding and choice built on the strength and quality of P.E.I.’s food sector, including school-based programs; actively protecting resource sectors and the promotion of environmental stewardship; working together to enhance public trust; and developing a workforce for the next 10 years.

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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