BY SHELLEY GLEN
Prince Edward Island has men and women that were born to farm. They know healthy soil when they hold it in the palm of their hand or stir it beneath their feet. They know it is filled with nutrients and minerals and will retain moisture to produce an abundant crop yield.
True farmers know that farmland and water are limited resources to be used with care and respect and that there are only so many hours in a season in which to plant, nurture, and harvest a crop before Mother Nature closes the door. They are proud to be true stewards of the land.
In his brief appearance Nov. 1 before the P.E.I. Communities, Land and Environment Committee, supposedly examining corporate land holdings in the province, Robert Irving, the industrial potato processor/grower, in his attitude and demands, made it clear he is not a steward of the land or water resources.
His blatant command for land limits to be changed so potato farmers can have twice as much land along with unlimited access to water to pay for their investment in the industry, is clearly about Robert Irving’s corporate profits and control, not the welfare of Island potato farmers or the land of which they are stewards.
The fact is, Island potato farmers know that twice as much land will not make life more profitable for them. They know if they were paid a fair return on their crop, twice as much land is not needed to pay for their investment in the industry. I believe they also know that to speak publicly would be financial suicide as the processing/farming corporation that determines their contracts is being supported by the Island government, through violation of the Lands Protection Act, to drive independent farmers to extinction.
As more Islanders become aware that farmers are being used as pawns to support Robert Irving’s agenda, Irving’s company language has suddenly changed. Cavendish Farms is now concerned about climate change. The demand for water has become the desire to partner in testing, monitoring and researching the impact of three deep water wells. This will enable Cavendish Farms to further exploit the public resource of water to irrigate their crops under a different pretext.
If Cavendish Farms is that concerned about climate change, perhaps Irving should start growing and processing varieties that will flourish with well-cared for land under dry conditions, instead of growing varieties requiring high volumes of water and longer seasons to create long french fries.
Successive Island governments have buckled under the politics of fear played by corporations such as Irving. The line is always the same – give us what we want, or we will leave, and take jobs with us. Who is finally going to have the guts to say, “You are invited to do business in our province under land and water regulations that serve the greater good of both our human and natural resources.” I would hazard the guess that Cavendish Farms will still be here and still making a very profitable return. If not, another company no doubt will be.
If Island governments continue along the path they have been following, we will no longer have the natural resources on Prince Edward Island to be Canada’s “food island.”
- Shelley Glen is a resident of Summerside. This letter is endorsed by the Cooper Institute.