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Enforcement of P.E.I.'s Lands Protection Act

Please read this op-ed by Marie Burge that was in the Guardian:

Enforcement of P.E.I.'s Lands Protection Act

The Guardian | March 29, 2022

Marie Burge, living in Charlottetown, is a member and staff person of Cooper Institute, which is an organizational member of the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Lands, for whom she submitted this article.

The Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Lands believes that the purpose and the intent of the P.E.I. Lands Protection Act was, and is, to control accumulation of farmland, in order to keep it in the hands of independent Island farm families. It was designed to prevent industrial corporations from having excessive ownership and control of vast acreages and therefore control of production decisions. Just as important is that the proper enforcement of the Lands Protection Act is meant to moderate farming practices of such industrial corporations whose main purpose is the maximization of profit for the corporation.

In the case of Cavendish Farms in P.E.I., there is constant pressure and demand for more and more land and water to feed their processing plant. The pressures by the corporate owners and their growers has resulted in an increased percentage (now 60 per cent) of P.E.I. potatoes going to processing, reducing the fresh market to 30 per cent and seed to 10 per cent. They repeatedly make the case for more land than allowed by the Lands Protection Act. This could conceivably be to increase their percentage for processing. Or does it mean that their farming practices have already wrecked the productivity of their current holdings?

In spite of a few environmental remedial measures, which industrial farming corporations put in place, they still remain in the category of extractive industries. Just as the oil, gas, and mining enterprises extract non-renewable resources from the earth, so does industrial agriculture. It extracts from farmland the non-renewable natural life sources leaving the land vulnerable to diseases resulting from bacteria, viruses and fungi and the spread of these. It is significant that index fields where potato wart was uncovered belong to Cavendish Farms.

It is especially important to acknowledge up-front that it is potato growers, not the industrial corporation, who carry the risk and pay the price. In the case of potato wart, this means about 50 per cent of P.E.I. potato farmers. For the most part it is those who grow for the seed and fresh market.

A specific problem with potato wart is that one of the main ways of transmitting spores is by means of the transferal of soil from an infected field. In P.E.I.’s massive processing potato enterprises, the use of the same farm machinery for many production units creates a high risk of carrying spores from an infected field to many others. It is highly likely that several different pieces of machinery would be in and out of a field during one day. It is hard to imagine that operators can take the time out of their time-sensitive, fast-paced work to properly disinfect the humongous machinery they use. Not only would it be very time-consuming to disinfect all the machinery, but we know that a spore of the potato wart fungus can survive and travel in the tiniest amount of soil. It would be virtually impossible to get all the soil completely washed out of all the nooks and small areas on top and underneath these machines.

The history of circuitous land deals the Cavendish Farms’ family have been able to transact over the past four decades is legendary. It is essential, therefore, that the current P.E.I. government, as well as future governments, demand strict adherence to the intent of the Lands Protection Act for all industrial farming corporations. Cavendish Farms is not the only entity able to circumvent the Lands Protection Act. Therefore, it is also compulsory that the current P.E.I. government and future governments demand strict adherence to the intent of the Lands Protection Act for all farming operations, especially watchful of those following the industrial farming model.

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