Prov­ince hopes to dou­ble agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion over 5 years

New­found­land and Labrador farm­ers op­ti­mistic, but still a long way to go

The Beacon (Gander) - - Front page - BY ADAM RAN­DELL

Af­ter re­view­ing the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s plan to de­velop the agri­cul­ture sec­tor, farmer Dwight Eveleigh is op­ti­mistic – but he does have some doubt. The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment wants to dou­ble the prov­ince’s agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion within the next five years. Cur­rently the prov­ince pro­duces 10 per cent of its own food, with most of the re­main­der be­ing shipped in. Eveleigh, who owns a 120acre farm in Com­fort Cove, calls it a “very am­bi­tious plan.” “Land has to be ap­plied for, cleared and put into pro­duc­tion – it takes years,” Eveleigh said, “longer than the set time­line.” One ap­proach is bring­ing new en­trants into the in­dus­try. That’s some­thing Eveleigh and his Leth­bridge col­leagues David and Krista Chat­man agree with. But given the harsh work en­vi­ron­ment and risks tied to farming, they know it’s not an easy sell. If the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment wishes to ob­tain its enhanced pro­duc­tion goal, Krista feels fo­cus­ing on es­tab­lished farm­ers is a good first step. “The re­sources they would have to uti­lize (to dou­ble pro­duc­tion) would be the cur­rent farm­ers and help­ing them in­crease their pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity,” she said, adding it could branch out from there to bring in new en­trants to fur­ther pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity. Fish­eries and Land Re­sources Min­is­ter Gerry Byrne knows the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has its work cut out but says gov­ern­ment “has its shoul­der to the wheel” on agri­cul­ture.

Byrne noted agri­cul­ture and aqua­cul­ture are the two main fo­cuses of the cab­i­net com­mit­tee on jobs. He says based on in­dus­try feed­back, gov­ern­ment has been work­ing on mea­sures that will al­low cur­rent farm­ers to ex­pand and en­cour­age new en­trants. He men­tioned New­found­land and Labrador hav­ing se­cured $37 mil­lion from the fed­er­ally funded Cana­dian Agri­cul­tural Part­ner­ship. Known as CAP, the pro­gram is de­signed to as­sist farm­ers with man­ag­ing sig­nif­i­cant risks that threaten the vi­a­bil­ity of their farm, as well as help­ing with man­age­ment, mar­ket de­vel­op­ment and in­no­va­tion. There’s even fund­ing avail­able through this pro­gram to as­sist with land clear­ing, said Byrne. Last year the prov­ince an­nounced 64,000 hectares of agri­cul­tural land would be made avail­able to farm­ers, which will be­gin this year. The prov­ince has also read­ied par­tially de­vel­oped lots to en­tice new en­trants, which Byrne says is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of the ex­pan­sion plan. “In a 10-year pe­riod – from 2005 to 2015 – we went from 500 farms in NL to 400. We lost 20 per cent of our over­all farms,” he said. “We need to stop that trend and find a way to re­verse it. “To at­tract new farm­ers, we are ac­cept­ing ap­pli­ca­tions on this (par­tially de­vel­oped) land for new en­trants into the veg­etable sec­tor. Th­ese are the kinds of in­no­va­tions we need – we have to do things dif­fer­ently to grow the in­dus­try.” But there’s more to the in­dus­try than veg­eta­bles, and Byrne ad­mits it’s some­thing that re­quires more at­ten­tion. There’s no sec­ondary pro­cess­ing when it comes to dairy such as ice cream, cheese or yo­gurt in the prov­ince. “We have all th­ese in­dus­trial milk quo­tas and ba­si­cally ship it to the main­land to sell it – other than a cou­ple of small ar­ti­san or bou­tique cheese fac­to­ries and some cream­ers – so we are work­ing with fed­eral gov­ern­ment on that,” he said. Fur­ther­more, there’s no fed­eral in­spec­tion plant for red meat live­stock. Byrne said the fed­eral in­spec­tion is a re­quire­ment of chain gro­cery stores. Un­til that hap­pens it’s a mar­ket that pro­vin­cial farm­ers can’t uti­lize.


From left, David Chat­man, Krista Chat­man, Merv Wise­man and Dwight Eveleigh chat with Fish­eries and Land Re­sources Min­is­ter Gerry Byrne at the New­found­land and Labrador Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture AGM on Jan. 31.

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