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

Respecting the Spirit and Intent of the Lands Protection Act

Letter to the Editor by Doug Campbell, published in the Charlottetown Guardian

October 23, 2017

The National Farmers Union (NFU) is alarmed by the rate at which farmland is being transferred to large corporate interests. Islanders, especially those in rural communities, know that all around them, land is being transferred generally in non-transparent transactions. What is involved is frequent and widespread under-the radar transfers of large quantities of land to interlocked corporations and to foreign investors. Without much apparent concern on the part of Government, PEI is now a victim of the well-known global land grab.

The PEI Lands Protection Act is the envy of many people in other jurisdictions. However, the NFU has known since the early 80’s that limits on acreage ownership is an important aspect of the Act, if the loopholes regarding these limits were either closed or closely monitored. However from the very beginning the NFU has made a distinction between the letter of the law and its spirit and intent. Premier Angus MacLean, who is the politician credited with proposing the Lands Protection Act was clear that the protection of the land is more than legal ownership. It was understood with the passing of the Act that land protection would require watching over who control land and how they do that. Continue reading

Water, NAFTA and Supply Management

District Director Doug Campbell made the following presentation at a public forum sponsored by the Council of Canadians on October 10. He was part of a panel discussion,  “Boiling Point: Water, NAFTA and Supply Management”, with co-presenters Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians) and Scott Sinclair (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives).

Here’s what Doug had to say (you can also download the presentation in pdf here:

Let me express my thanks for the invitation to speak to the Council of Canadians in my capacity as Region One District Director of the National Farmers Union. My presentation will centre on the recent Island focus on water use, our environment, and the NFU’s position presented at initial public consultations on the development of a water act; as well as at the draft public consultations. It is our understanding that the Prince Edward Island water act will be introduced in the Legislative Assembly this fall. Unfortunately as the act is not yet public I cannot address the actual proposed legislation.

Humans, animals, and plants are depended on water for their survival, their growth, and their productivity. Without water there is desolation, death, a barren landscape. Water is life. From the moment of conception humans and animals begin their lifelong relationship with water.

Therefore access to pure water needs to be a basic right for all, not a privilege for the select, or a source of economic power for the few. Canadians have witnessed the cost to so many of our First Nations people who have suffered greatly from inaccessibility to clean fresh water. Both governments and individuals have turned a blind eye to deplorable third world water conditions on reserves. Should we doubt that it could happen further a field? It is commendable that our government is taking steps to place itself in a guardianship role with the goals of ensuring provision of sufficient, safe, and accessible water for domestic purposes; and provide protection to ecosystems, while requiring public reporting and consultation, and basing water allocation using science-based facts.

Access to good water is to know health and prosperity. We only need to look at the parts of the world whose infrastructure has been damaged by recent hurricanes. The headlines read of the desperation for water. The plight of our water is the plight of all of us. It is good to note that the proposed water act of PEI states everyone has a duty to protect water.

However, the draft lacks recognition of water as a human and ecological right. It is the hope of the NFU that this is corrected in the proposed legislation. Such recognition in itself will set the tone of the legislation. Access to good water is the right of all. The source of water cannot become a commodity to be exploited in the market place.

Land, water, and air are a joint package. The NFU’s stance is that the debate on water, land and air cannot be separated. To ignore or mistreat even one is to greatly impact the others. Continue reading

NFU Presentation on PEI’s Draft Water Act

Presented by Edith Ling and Doug Campbell, April 10, 2017

The National Farmers Union (NFU) appreciates this opportunity to comment on the 2017 draft of the PEI Water Act. We will begin by addressing what we see as omissions, followed by concerns about wording and intent. Then we will conclude with an expression of our appreciation for some aspects of the draft which we find hopeful. Most of what we have to say is based on the NFU’s recommendations to the PEI Environmental Advisory Council on November 3, 2015.

What is Missing

For the NFU the first and most obvious omission is that there is no indication of intent to maintain a moratorium on high capacity wells. From our perspective and given the community outcry during the 2015-2016 consultations, this seems almost outrageous. For real future control on high capacity wells it is imperative that this be in the Act.

We expected that the Act would establish a permanent ban on fracking. This omission indicates to us a lack of understanding of the potential threat of fracking to the quantity and quality of PEI water. Islanders need to be assured that no future government would approve hydraulic fracturing as a natural gas extraction process within PEI’s jurisdiction. Continue reading

Another Successful District Convention

The district convention on March 28 was a well-attended affair, with farmers from across the Island gathering at Milton Community Hall. The agenda was full. The highlight was the keynote presentation by NFU President Jan Slomp (see the CBC coverage here, and the Charlottetown Guardian article here). Minister Allan MacIsaac spoke briefly and answered questions. The documentary made by Don Kossick, and featuring many local NFU members – Islanders and the Land – was screened (see the video on youtube here).

Executive members Byron Petrie, Edith Ling and Doug Campbell

Doug Campbell (District President), Edith Ling (Women’s President) and Byron Petrie (Youth President) were re-elected.

The following resolutions were passed:

  1. WHEREAS it is becoming increasingly difficult for family farmers in general and young or beginning farmers in particular to obtain land for farming purposes, THEREFORE BE RESOLVED that the National Farmers Union request that the P.E.I. Government introduce a voluntary land banking program, similar to the former Land Development Corporation (LDC) program, through which farms would be purchased from farmers wishing to retire and this land would then be made available for lease or purchase by other family farmers.
  1. BE IT RESOLVED that the National Farmers Union request the P. E. I. Government to prohibit absentee ownership and corporate control of P. E. I. farmland.
  1. WHEREAS in the past, land that was leased was counted as part of the total aggregate land holdings of both the person who was leasing the land and also the person from whom the land was being leased, and WHEREAS this “double counting” of leased land was discontinued several years ago, and WHEREAS this is a way for large operations to control additional land for production, and WHEREAS this practice of not “double counting” leased land is scheduled to continue until December 31, 2020, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the National Farmers Union request the Government of P. E. I. to re-establish the double counting of leased farmland by December 31, 2020.
  1. WHEREAS forest land is not included in the land holding limits for arable land, and WHEREAS deforestation is taking place at an alarming rate in this Province, and WHEREAS forests are essential for windbreaks, erosion control, and replenishing the water table and are   useful for a habitat for wildlife and for the sequestering of carbon, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the National Farmers Union request the Government of P. E. I. to put into place a program to stop this unnecessary clear-cutting of our forests.