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OPINION: A potato action plan

Dr. Herb Dickieson recently retired from his large family practice in O'Leary.
(Journal-Pioneer)
Dr. Herb Dickieson recently retired from his large family practice in O'Leary. (Journal-Pioneer) - SaltWire Network

MacLauchlan government must display leadership on this issue that is affecting potato farmers, economy

BY DR. HERB DICKIESON

GUEST OPINION

Our number one crop, potatoes, has been struck hard this year from late frost in June, to a very dry summer, to an early frost with a very wet and cold fall. All this resulted in reduced yields in many areas, particularly West Prince.

The adverse weather conditions resulted in many acres of potatoes being left in the ground, and lost for the year.

(During Tuesday’s Question Period in the P.E.I. Legislature, Agriculture Minister Robert Henderson estimated that 10 per cent of the Island’s 85,000-acre potato crop remains in the ground, indicating that more than 8,000 acres could be lost.)

The crop insurance program is very complex, and falls way short of actual production costs. Island potato farmers will suffer a great loss this year, and some may not survive.

Losses will be felt far beyond the farmers’ gate. Thousands of Islanders, including farm workers, those in the processing industry, our businesses, particularly in rural areas, and indeed all of us will be impacted as a result of this year’s catastrophic blow to our potato crop.

Provincial tax revenue will be down over the next year affecting our ability to provide for all Islanders.

The MacLauchlan government must display some leadership on this issue that is not only affecting our struggling potato farmers, but is impacting the Island economy in a devastating way. An expression of support, and an action plan would provide some hope to our potato farmers, large and small, so that they may begin to recover and prepare for planting next spring.

Yes, there are many other associated issues to discuss including land usage, acreage size and the environment, and we will address these issue with our potato farmers in time, but right now our potato farmers are hurting, and we will too if we don’t stand with them to work through this difficult time.

- Dr. Herb Dickieson, former MLA, Island New Democrats

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