Guest opinion by Douglas Campbell – published in the Charlottetown Guardian, April 7, 2021
The National Farmers Union (NFU) has been asked if we are members of the Coalition for the Protection of the P.E.I. Lands. This was in relation to the ads which have been aired recently on CFCY radio. The ads addressed the reality of increasing corporate and foreign ownership of Island land through circumvention of the Lands Protection Act and the negative impacts of industrialized farming. Islanders were asked to contact their MLAs, noting that successive Island governments have failed to uphold the spirit and intent of the Lands Protection Act. This failure that has brought us to the current threat to the P.E.I. lands. The resulting consolidation of ownership and control of land has led to the abuse of the land.
The NFU has a long tradition of transparency, a trait which seems to be in short supply in many institutions in P.E.I. Therefore, the National Farmers Union, District 1, is hereby publicly stating its affiliation with the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Lands. When the lands coalition was formed in May 2018, the NFU accepted the invitation to become a member along with other like-minded organizations. We know that the invitation was extended to other agricultural groups.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the NFU is a coalition member. The protection of our land is a chief focus in our mandate to promote the economic and social betterment of Canadian farmers, promote environmentally safe farming practices, the building of vibrant rural communities and a safe food supply.
The NFU was instrumental in having the Lands Protection Act passed in the P.E.I. legislative assembly in 1982 to prevent corporate and foreign interests with deep pockets from gaining control of Island land to the determinant of family farms and rural communities. We make no apology for trying to prevent our land from becoming a commodity of the few. We find it perplexing that others are not assuming a larger role in the fight to hold the provincial government to account in protecting our primary natural resource.
When a former NFU president, Roy Atkinson of Saskatchewan, addressed an Island group of farmers in the early 1970s, he said “the agribusiness sells you the machinery, and equipment, as well as the fertilizer and seed you need to operate your farm and then they turn around and buy the products of your labour. When they sell you a tractor, they set the price and you have to take it or leave it. The same thing happens when you go to sell your crop. The agribusiness offers a fixed price and you can take it or leave it. The farmer is caught in a squeeze which, if allowed to go on, will force him into bankruptcy.”
This is also why we have an issue with industrialized farming which has become increasingly heavily dominated by large vertically integrated corporations interested in consolidating natural resources for the greatest profit. Small- and medium-sized independent farming operations are being forced out of business, while large scale independent operations are being heavily impacted by debt load and low commodity prices. This is impacting farmers, rural communities, consumers, and the environment. So if some find the term, “industrialized farming”, offensive perhaps they should ask themselves why.
The above is why the NFU is part of the coalition. When you stand for the land you stand for farmers. NFU P.E.I. website and the coalition Facebook page give valuable information.
Douglas Campbell lives on his family farm in Southwest Lot 16 and is district director of the National Farmers Union.