Milton Community Hall
April 20, 2022
Good morning, everyone. It is great to be able to meet together this year with fewer restrictions than we had last year at the time of the District Convention. Covid has made things difficult for many organizations and the NFU is not unique in this regard. Although it was possible to carry on meetings such as our National Convention via Zoom for the past two years, it is so much better to be able to meet in person. So welcome to this, your District Convention.
As Women's District Director, I attended District Board meetings during the year as well as meetings of the Coalition for the Protection of P. E. I. Lands, and I also work on the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water. During the year the NFU had meetings with the Premier and with the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Once again this year, NFU members enjoyed a substantial discount at time of bulk delivery of diesel fuel, gasoline, furnace oil and lubricants. Island Petroleum added bulk propane to the list of products for which a discount is applied. Be sure to let Island Petroleum know you are a member of the NFU in order to be assured of receiving the discount. A new agreement has been negotiated for 2022 with the same company. As well, NFU members took part in our Collective Bargaining Agreement on fertilizer purchased through P. E. I. Agromart.
Because of Covid restrictions, we were not able to hold our annual lobster supper for the past two years. Hopefully we can soon do that again.
The National Farmers Union takes no money from Government and so we can say what has to be said, when it has to be said. We are often the targets of attack - be it personal or an attack on the organization itself. Well, I am here to tell you that the NFU is not an insignificant farm organization. On the contrary, we do represent a very significant number of farm families in this Province, who operate farms of all sizes, producing all commodities. We have been accused of being racist. There is nothing racist at all about trying to ensure that farm land in this Province remains in the hands of farm families who will live on the farm and keep the land in agricultural production. It is apparent that the derogatory remarks made by some people towards the NFU and its leadership are nothing more than a smoke screen to evade the issues rather than meeting them head on and properly answering the questions. I would want the perpetrators of these actions to know that their demeaning remarks will not stop the NFU from standing up for what is right and from working on behalf of all farm families in this Province and beyond.
We have found it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach the Premier and some Cabinet Ministers to request a meeting or get an answer to a question. Dozens of phone calls over a period of a few months went unanswered before we were able to meet with the Premier. This is not acceptable. It is high time that politicians realize who their employer is and extend due respect to the people who elected them. So, you can decide for yourself why no politicians are on our agenda here today!
As you are aware, the Lands Protection Act has been amended. We were advised by the Minister of Agriculture and his lawyers that we will have to wait to see if the amended Act will eliminate the circumvention of the Act which we have witnessed for years in the past. When asked how long he would wait to correct the situation if it is found that the amended Act is not strong enough, the Minister of Agriculture replied with the usual vague political answer. Time will tell if the amended Act is strong enough to put an end to the violations of the Act.
Potato Wart - This situation has proven devastating for many farm families in the Province. Although table stock potatoes can now move into the US market, the seed industry is in a critical situation as seed cannot be shipped to the US or to any province in Canada. Many questions remain unanswered -why were trees not planted in the index fields in 2000 and in subsequent years? Will they be planted in these fields this year? Why was Cavendish Farms allowed to plant the highly susceptible variety Russet Burbank in these fields only five years after detection? What are the requirements that the US agreed to recently which resulted in the opening of the border for table stock potatoes? Why has this not been made public? There is no transparency there. In downplaying the seriousness of the potato wart situation, the Manager of the Potato Board, Greg Donald stated that he could put all the wart potatoes that had been found in his half-ton truck box. Well, I would suggest to Mr. Donald that one potato is one too many in this case. We need an eradication plan for potato wart, not only a management plan.
It is clear that the Irving empire is in the driver's seat in this Province on this and on many other issues. It has been interesting to watch the steps being taken which will lead to this province becoming a processing province. Just imagine the additional control Irving will have over the farmers then. Now we learn that the Minister of Agriculture and also IRAC consider the current owners of Red Fox Acres Ltd. (owned by Rebecca Irving) to be in compliance with the provisions of the Lands Protection Act as they have divested some land by way of a global lease to Lady Slipper Farms. Lady Slipper Farms is an Irving- owned corporation in N B. So she takes the land out of one hand and places it in the other. Nothing has changed - the land is still in Irving hands. What a deviation from the provisions of the Lands Protection Act! I checked out the meaning of "divest" in the Oxford dictionary. This is what it says: "Divest" is defined as to deprive someone of power, rights, or possessions - to rid oneself of something. What happened here is a blatant disregard for the laws of this Province. We never did see the Brendel Farms report although the Agriculture Minister promised it would be made public. That is not transparency. Island Holdings Ltd. has co-presidents and co-chief executive officers. They are Robert K. Irving and James D. Irving. James K. Irving is the Chairman and the shareholders are Grand Forest Holdings Inc. in New Brunswick. Island Holdings Ltd. has been attempting to buy land in the Freetown area. The request has been declined on two occasions and rightfully so. It will be interesting to see if they can invent a way to circumvent the Act once again. The Minister of Agriculture is reported to have said it could be because the advertising of the land was not done according to IRAC rules. There is a much bigger reason than this why they should not get the land.
We are in a serious situation in this Province when we have a Government which got elected on the mantra "For the People". Once in office this was soon forgotten but will probably be unwrapped again in time for the next election.
In the meantime, let us keep telling it like it is and continue to work for programs and policies which are in the best interest of our farm families.
In closing, I would like to pay tribute to District Director, Doug Campbell who has worked tirelessly in that position for the past six years. It has been extremely rare that Doug and I have not seen eye to eye on any issue. If that ever did happen, we always were able to come to a mutually agreeable solution and move ahead. It was a real pleasure to work with you, Doug. Thanks to our Secretary Dan and Treasurer Darlene for all their help during the year. Thanks too to the Local Presidents and our national representatives for your help with the work in this District over the past year. Special thanks must go to Marie Burge who is always willing to help the NFU in any endeavour. We know she is a busy woman who works on many other issues, and this makes us even more grateful for her help. After sixteen years in this position, I feel I have more than completed the course. However, I remain strongly committed to the philosophy of the NFU and will be glad to help out in any way I can in the days ahead. It has been quite a ride, and a tremendous education. Thank you all!