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

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

Holding Ponds and Protecting PEI Water

Guest Opinion by Edith Ling,

Women’s District Director of the National Farmers Union

May 17, 2017

The general public needs to be very concerned about the construction of holding ponds used to hold water for agricultural irrigation purposes. It appears to me that these holding ponds are a way around the 2002 moratorium placed on the drilling of high capacity wells in this province.

At a meeting with Department of Environment officials on March 29, 2017 to review the draft Water Act, the question was asked about how these ponds were going to be filled. The answer given on that day was that there would be one well (low capacity) allowed per pond. That seemed to be a reasonable answer.

The same question was asked of the Dept. of Environment official at the public meeting to consider the draft Water Act in Charlottetown on April 10, 2017. The information given at that meeting was there would be one well allowed per property identification number (PID) per pond.

This is a substantial difference. Many farmers have a number of parcels of land, each with a different identification number and we know water can be piped for great distances. It is easy to see that the plan is to use several wells to fill these holding ponds.
In a telephone call to the same Department of Environment official, Jim Young, a day or so later, he was asked why the change had been made. He replied that there were no changes made. When he was questioned as to why he had not mentioned the property identification number involvement at the March 29, 2017 meeting, his response was “You did not ask.”

This is a totally unacceptable answer from a public servant. It would appear that not all the information was shared at the March 29 meeting or indeed a change has been made.
It is difficult to understand what the difference would be between one high capacity well filling a pond or several low capacity wells doing the same job.

Either way, hundreds of thousands of gallons of precious water are being extracted.

Even more interesting is the fact that the highest pumping capacity for a low capacity well is 50 igpm (imperial gallons per minute) while the lowest pumping capacity for a high capacity well is just over 50 igpm. Both wells will require permits.

I realize that the matter of these holding ponds will be dealt with in the Regulations under the Water Act. Regulations can be changed by the stroke of a pen at any meeting of the cabinet.

The general public needs to be vigilant about this matter and ensure that these holding ponds are not an innovative way to circumvent the moratorium on high capacity wells for agricultural irrigation. We need to make sure that our water supply is protected and preserved for this and future generations.