Editorial by Douglas Campbell, District Director – February, 2017
National Farmers Union (NFU) leaders in PEI are seeing a new interest in their organization among farmers and the wider non-farming community.
In the recent repeated attempts to have a meeting with Premier MacLauchlan, community organizations expressed their concern and support. To the relief of the NFU the meeting finally took place on Wednesday, February 1, 2017. The NFU officials felt that they were well received.
The NFU outlined for the Premier some basic principles on which the NFU is based since its founding in 1969, by an Act of the Parliament of Canada. The NFU proudly represents the interests of family farmers. The family farm is a unit of food production where the major production decisions are made by the farm family. The farm is small enough to allow it to be worked mainly by the family. It is a unit of food production of a size and value that can be easily and economically transferred to the next generation. Central concerns are for the care of the land, air, and water. The NFU membership consists of farm families, which operate a mixture of small, medium and large farms in all commodity areas.
One major concern of the NFU, which affects all of PEI, is the under-the- radar transfer of large quantities of land to interlocked corporations. New entities are appearing on the scene which control a number of unidentifiable (some numbered) corporations. Many of these, and other corporations, are able to take advantage of old and new loopholes in the Lands Protection Act to increase their land holdings. A long-time weakness of the Lands Protection Act is the ability of farm operations to form multiple corporations and thus operate larger acreages. This was a weakness identified by Horace Carver in his report on the Lands Protection Act, 2013. Carver also expressed concern about non-residents owning large amounts of land and about land that is being held but not in production. He had suggested a special committee be set up to consider such matters. Four years has passed and the government has done nothing in this line.
It seems that there is little transparency. Island residents would have difficulty, without the assistance of costly professionals, to track the transfers of land. Land grabbing is a trend nationally and internationally. People with big money, seeing low return on their investment in the financial sector are turning to securing their future wealth by investing in land which they presume will increase in value. The PEI Government needs to be on top of this: we don’t want to return to the conditions of absentee landlord days.
Another serious matter is the tendency of public policy makers to place a large burden of “economic growth” on the farm sector. Farming for the NFU is first and foremost intended to provide healthy, affordable food for the population, while providing a livelihood for farm families. It is a disgrace in PEI that we are not able to feed ourselves. We are dependent on food transported over thousands of kilometres. It is now a common question of Islanders “What would our daily food supply look like if the bridge had to be closed for an extended period?”
The NFU does not oppose industrial farming, directed mainly toward export and its contribution to the wealth of the province. What the NFU opposes is that the PEI Government gives priority to industrial agriculture and little importance to the role of the family farm.
NFU is a general farm organization which has only direct membership of individuals and farm families. There are no organizational members, such as commodity groups or industrial corporations. To those interested in joining: You can become members by filling out a membership form when an NFU canvasser calls on you in the coming weeks and by filling in the Farm Registration Form and check off the NFU as your farm organization of choice.