Stop this at­tack on our Is­land farm­land

Is­lan­ders need to wake up and learn what is be­ing al­lowed to go on with re­spect to P.E.I. farm­land

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL - Edith Ling Edith Ling lives in North Winsloe and is women’s dis­trict di­rec­tor with the Na­tional Farm­ers Union

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.).

David Weale is to­tally cor­rect in stat­ing that it is high time that more Is­lan­ders wake up and learn what is be­ing al­lowed to go on with re­spect to P.E.I. farm land. Mem­bers of the Na­tional Farm­ers Union (NFU) are aware of what is hap­pen­ing and for years have been bring­ing these con­cerns to the gov­ern­ments of the day. In fact, it was the NFU that was in­stru­men­tal in hav­ing the Lands Pro­tec­tion Act (LPA) passed in our pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­ture.

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.

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