Stop This Attack on Island Farmland

GUEST OPINION BY EDITH LING

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In response to David Weale’s opinion article in The Guardian Nov. 29, Alan Holman, in the Dec. 1, issue of the newspaper, expressed his opinion that farmers and many Islanders are not concerned about who owns the land despite the takeover of Island farm land by large corporations, including the Irving empire and the sale of precious farm land to Asian interests (GEBIS, etc.).

One of the main purposes of this act is to preserve Island farmland for farm families and to prevent the accumulation of farm land in the hands of large industrial corporations, i.e. the Irvings. Now, they and other large corporations have found loopholes in the act all with the apparent blessing of the provincial government.

It is unfortunate that Mr. Holman did not attend the meeting of the Select Standing Committee on Communities, Land and the Environment Nov. 1, 2018 and witness the snow job presented by Robert Irving. Mr. Holman would have easily seen a very smooth presentation in which Irving asked that the land limits under the LPA be increased for potato producers.

Mr. Irving also subtly alluded to the fact that more high capacity wells are needed for irrigation purposes. The purpose of his appearing before the committee was to disclose his land holdings in this province. He did not provide this information, and not one committee member asked that question before the meeting was quickly brought to a close.

Mr. Irving applauded the P.E.I. Crop Rotation Act but later in the meeting it was revealed that many of his 83 process contract growers follow a two-year rotation rather than the three-year rotation suggested in the Act. Such action is resulting in the destruction of organic matter in Island soils which decreases the water-holding ability of the soil. Does Mr. Irving care? No, all he is interested in is higher yields per acre from the soil which is already over-taxed. It is clear that Irving wants our land and our water and his corporation is already making recommendations to government on what the regulations under the Water Act should look like.

Mr. Irving has been complaining about the lack of potatoes available for his plant. He might have sufficient potatoes if he had not dropped the contracts of a considerable number of growers several years ago. He has the current contract growers right where he wants them – buy every input, i.e. fertilizer, chemicals, etc. from the company store. Most contract growers would not dare to speak out about the bondage under which they exist for fear of losing their contract.

His contract price to growers is the lowest possible. Growers then are docked up to 20 per cent on every load delivered. All this results in many growers being kept in difficult financial situations. One can be assured that increased yields per acre will not result in better income for the farm families producing potatoes for the plant.

Mr. Weale has issued a clarion call for Islanders to wake up. We need to hear this call and act accordingly. If we don’t, it will be almost impossible for young farmers to obtain farm land; it will be very difficult for existing farmers to expand within the land limits, and the fabric of our rural communities will be further torn apart. Farmers represent a very small percentage of voters on election day so we need the general public to come on board and stop this attack on our Island farm land.

Edith Ling lives in North Winsloe and is women’s district director with the National Farmers Union

Wanted: Young Farmers to Participate in Research on Attitudes about Conservation & Endangered Species

17264736_10154148629772434_4233743748831829347_nDr. Carolyn Peach Brown, Environmental Studies, from the University of Prince Edward Island is looking for participants in a study about young farmers’ perspectives on environmental conservation and Species at Risk on Prince Edward Island (PEI).  The aim of the research is to better understand the role that young farmers are playing, or can play, in protection of the environment and species at risk on PEI.  This will provide important information to guide the development of policy and educational programs about Species at Risk on PEI.

Specifically, she is looking for any farmer on PEI between the ages of 18 and 50. Knowledge about Species at Risk is not necessary for participation in the study.

Your participation would involve completing an on line survey (see link below) or Dr. Brown can send it to you via email. The survey will ask questions about your awareness and knowledge about Species at Risk on PEI and your perspective on their protection.  The survey will take approximately 20 minutes to complete, when you have time available. Your participation will be anonymous.  In other words, your personal identity will not be revealed.  Those who complete the survey will have the option of having their name included in a draw for a $100 gift card from an agricultural supply store of their choice.

Surveys will be sent to volunteer participants during the months of October to December, 2018. Survey participants will also have an option to participate in a follow up interview. These interviews would take place in January to March 2019.

If you are interested in participating in the study please click on the following link

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/M3KPZKW

OR would like more information about the study, please contact Dr. Carolyn Peach Brown, 902-620-5066 or hcpbrown@upei.ca.

Water Law: A Look at PEI’s Water Act

Tuesday, October 2, 2018 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the PEI Farm Centre, University Ave, Charlottetown

Join East Coast Environmental Law and the Coalition for Protection of PEI Water for a discussion of the Water Act, looking forward to the release of regulations and another round of consultations.

Lisa Mitchell from ECE Law will provide an overview of the Act.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

6-8 pm

The Farm Centre, Charlottetown

PEI Water Law Workshop-2

The Fibre of Rural Canada

The whole story must be told about the strengths of Canada’s supply management system

BY DOUGLAS CAMPBELL

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I am writing this letter in response to an article by The Fraser Institute entitled, “Canada can eliminate supply management by following Australia’s lead.”

The three authors, Jon Berry, Alan Oxley and Dan LeRoy say Canadian policy-makers would be well advised to learn lessons from Australia about phasing out supply management in a number of agricultural sectors. Their article is about Australia doing away with supply management in the dairy sector in 2000.

The authors write a glowing report on what a success this has been for Australia. They say consumers are paying less for milk, national supply has been maintained, and larger farms are driving much greater productivity, allowing milk products to be the third biggest agricultural export after beef and dairy.

I would like to question this Australian success story, and offer my perspective as a Canadian dairy farmer.

First, let’s talk lower dairy prices to consumers. If the authors say it is the case in Australia then I will have to take their word for it, but someone paid the cost somewhere.

I draw your attention to the Canadian consumer reality – that the previous trade deals, which have negotiated away percentages of the Canadian dairy market, have not seen Canadian consumers reap the benefits of cheaper dairy products – as promised by negotiators and others wishing to see the dismantling of the supply management system.

What has happened as a result of the undermining of the system is an ever-increasing divide between what the dairy farmer is receiving for producing milk and what the consumer is paying. Because of the opening up of the market, farmers are receiving 1980 prices for their milk from processors, and are struggling to cover the cost of production and stay in business. On the other hand, dairy processors have seen their profits double in the last 20 years. It is supply management that has become the scapegoat.

The authors state that the stabilizing of the supply and price of Australia’s dairy products allowed for inefficient farms and the consolidation in the industry is so much more efficient. Supply management allows farmers to know what they will receive for their

product. Nowhere does it give permission to be inefficient, regardless of size, for the product must be produced within the return, or there simply is no farm. How is that inefficient?

The authors are really implying that only large-scale farms can be efficient. Why didn’t they come right out and use the term industrial farming, because that is what they are supporting.

There is also the bigger question that the authors neglected to address – and that is the health of rural communities. Just how are they doing socially, environmentally, and economically under the dismantling of supply management?

I would argue that Canada’s supply management system, prior to the start of its gradual erosion by government bureaucrats, greatly stabilized rural Canada. Farming is far more than an industry. It is the fibre of rural Canada. It appears so many of our decision makers have no understanding of this fact.

The authors were so impressed with Australian dairy now being its third largest agricultural export. But they failed to mention where it is being exported or who it is impacting. United States dairy farmers can tell you. Australian dairy products are coming into the United States taking market share. Australia is a very big reason American farmers have not been able to meet their cost of production in the past two years.

Australia dairy products are a big reason the United States wants into the Canadian dairy market. It seems Trump is not the only one to stray from the facts.

Supply management seems to be a scapegoat for many think tanks and economists. When the public reads these findings, they need to ask – is the whole story being told, and who is being served by putting this viewpoint before the public. We deserve the whole story to be told and debated.

– Doug Campbell of Southwest Lot 16, district director, National Farmers Union

Understanding the Spirit of the Lands Protection Act

 

GUEST OPINION BY DOUGLAS CAMPBELL – JUNE 28, 2018

The National Farmers Union (NFU) notices and welcomes the community’s new expressions of interest about the Lands Protection Act. Islanders know the painful history of the land and how easily it can be taken from the people. Now we are in a new era in how land transactions take place. In 2018, the style of take-overs is more hidden than they were in other times. However, on the community level, people know who is taking control of vast acreages. What is not clear to the Island population is why the Lands Protection Act seems to be powerless to stop the rapid land grab so obvious in the rural community.

The NFU has not said that corporations and individuals are breaking the letter of the law set out in the Lands Protection Act. We are saying that there is an alarming ignorance on the part of policy makers and other Island residents about the spirit of the Act.

In 1982, then-Premier Angus MacLean made it clear that the spirit/intent of the act was to keep farm land in the control of Island farm families and to keep all lands in control of Islanders. Control of the land was Premier MacLean’s over-arching theme. Part of this was that individuals and corporations must be prohibited from amassing large land holding. The Act also put tight restrictions on non-resident purchases of land. There was no intention to discourage new people from becoming resident owners. It was meant to prevent absentee control of the land.

Our consultations with influential people, associates of Premier MacLean, tell the NFU that limiting land holding in the Act was an instrument of keeping Island land in specific Island hands. The restriction to 1,000 acres for individuals would prevent excessive concentration. It meant that more people, rather than fewer, would actually control the land. The 3,000-acre limit for corporations, in the vision of Premier MacLean, was meant as a business convenience for farm families.

The intent was that three members of a family group, e.g. a parent and two adult children could form a corporation. In this way, the original spirit of the Lands Protection Act was to keep farm land at the service of family farming model. It was never intended that the corporation limit would be manipulated to serve the interests of industrial agriculture. In fact, a five-acre limit was placed on industrial corporations (including processors).

So, to accept the spirit of the Lands Protection Act, in fact, requires accepting the original goals of keeping farm land in family farming. What a desecration to see the corporation allowance being manipulated for massive takeovers of farm land. Contrary to the spirit of the Act, the goal of this current takeover is to enlarge the profits of the powerful corporations, and to firmly establish the industrial farming model as the predominant agricultural structure.

Some people, including policy makers, seem to be easily confused about what a family farm is. The NFU has heard members of large corporations, controlling immense tracts of land in P.E.I., saying, “we are a family involved in farming, so we are a ‘family farm.” That does not make their operation a family farm. When we speak of family farms, we are not talking of industrial corporations with huge land spreads.

goal of industrial farming is to amass profit for the corporation, to increase its capital holdings. The family farm on the other hand is a unit of food production where the major production decisions are made by the farm family. The farm is small enough ideally to make production decisions and to allow it to be worked mainly by the family, of course with outside labour for the busy seasons. Central concerns are making a living for the farm family and caring for the land, air and water.

With new awareness in the community about land, and about the Lands Protection Act, the NFU urges Islanders to speak out. Those in power interpret silence as consent. The NFU wants to hear loud protests about the weakening of the Act and the failure of governments to protect our land for current and future generations.

– Douglas Campbell, dairy farmer in Southwest Lot 16, District Director of the National Farmers Union