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

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

Spirit of Lands Protection Act is Being Violated

By Douglas Campbell, Director, NFU District One, Region One

The National Farmers Union, reflecting the concerns of many Islanders, is asking the P.E.I. government to investigate the corporate interests which are taking ownership of immense acreages of farm land.

The NFU presumes that the
land takeovers to date do not violate the letter of the law. It is however clear the spirit of the Lands Protection Act is being seriously violated. The spirit of the Act was, and is, the prevention of massive land takeovers by any entity, corporate or individual, and by out-of-province interests. Only those wearing blinders would argue that land is currently protected from these take overs.

By the letter of the law, from the beginning, no corporation could acquire ownership of more than 3,000 acres and individuals 1000 acres. With some tactics, those limits really have been changed. Given that non-arable land is excluded from the calculations of acreage allowed, the current definition of non-arable land favours an increase of as much as 1,200 acres for a corporation and 400 acres for an individual.

Non-arable land is that on which a temporary agricultural crop was not planted at any time in the immediately preceding four years. Ironically this could include blueberry and orchard lands. Considering the non-arable land factor, we could have a new set of land holding limits as 4,200 acres for a corporation and 1,400 acres for an individual.

Worse than the above, the most flagrant violation of the spirit of the act is the accumulation of land in the hands of single corporate entities. This is very difficult to bring to the light of day because the land is held in the names of different corporations presumably keeping the law by ensuring that no board member owns more that five per cent shares in any other land holding corporation with the maximum allowable acreage.

What the NFU, and the rest of the community, knows is the names of those who are the front people, but the questions are: What is the origin of the money?  Who are the real investors? Besides the longtime locally grown, grasping corporations, we now have on the stage Dutch (Netherlandic), Chinese, and Taiwanese entities. In other words, Dutch, Chinese and Taiwanese money.

As in most parts of the world, P.E.I. is experiencing the plague of land grabbing. The lesson learned is that capitalists worldwide view land as a solid investment, promising future growth in their investment capital. Land is bought up everywhere for the expectation of an incredible increase in value over the years.

At the heart of all land grabbing is a source of investment capital. If the government is serious about its role in protecting P.E.I. land, there must be an investigation of who are the real investors.

Most Islanders know our land history: that for 100 years, our land was in the hands of absentee British land lords. Island farmers held a courageous and painful struggle to win back the land.

To quote the song, “Don’t sell PEI” by Father Andrew Macdonald: “No, No don’t sell P.E.I.; it’s our homeland, our heritage and we want to make it free . . . Shall we return to serfdom now or halt the invading pack?”

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