January 29th, 2014

Yesterday, The Guardian‘s editorial praised Saturday’s “rational” letter by the P.E.I. Potato Board chairman for not wanting “unfettered” access to water, among other things.  The editorial describes the negative reactions of those who do not want these high capacity wells, and says the Federation of Agriculture (set on Friday to pass a resolution presumably supporting lifting of the ban) is worried about Islanders getting “misinformation,” and the editorial ends with, “The key word here is misinformation.”  The editors do not elaborate on who is spreading misinformation or what the misinformation is.  Perhaps they too are wishing for more education from the Potato Board as with Saturday’s “first lesson.”
(copied below)

Cathy Grant certainly spells it out clearly with accurate information:

Sherry tips her hand on deep-water wells?
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on January 28, 2014

Environment Minister Janice Sherry has just made a stand on deep-water well irrigation for potatoes on P.E.I. She has stated that the “P.E.I. Potato Board has to go the next step and ʻeducateʼ Islanders about deep water well irrigation.”  What the heck?
Since when does the environment minister of any jurisdiction, banana republic or potato republic, cede the “next step” to industries who will benefit from said deep-water drilling and make them responsible for ʻpublic education?ʼ
Oh yes, we have had a lot of ʻpublic educationʼ over the past several years from the government. They have informed us that decisions regarding Plan B and the HST were not popular decisions but they were right decisions according to Premier Robert Ghiz, his caucus, and the business community.
On the matter of deep-well water drilling, Ms. Sherry has previously stated she has “read all the science.”  Well I hope she will come out to share the science she has read with Islanders and not fob off another environmental disaster on an Island industry that has much to gain from Ms. Sherryʼs shrugging off her responsibility to Prince Edward Islanders and its fragile environment.
I come from a mostly Irish heritage, and though my family didnʼt settle on P.E.I. because of the potato famine, many Island families did. These statements from Minister Sherry cannot but make me think of like decisions made by English lairds when they let local Irish farmers and citizens starve rather than helping to support them and their efforts to establish more diverse agricultural practices.
Cathy Grant,

Ag federation faces decision on deep wells
Editorial in The Guardian
Published on January 28, 2014

Meeting this week should signal support for potato boardʼs contentious request
This weekʼs annual meeting of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture will attract more interest than usual because of the contentious issue of deep-water wells for potato irrigation. The federation has wells placed prominently on the agenda with a presentation outlining the P.E.I. Department of Environmentʼs perspective on water quantity and seasonal demands, while outlining the governmentʼs water extraction policy for groundwater and surface water.
The federation will also hear an update on the Georgetown Conference and the impact of the harmonized sales tax. The federation strongly supported the HST and said tax rebates on the cost of doing business would position Island farmers on an equal footing with the rest of the region. But the key topic Friday in Charlottetown will be wells.
Deep-water wells have drawn a flood of comment because it affects every Islander who has legitimate concerns over a secure supply of drinking water and contamination of the water table with nitrates and pesticides. Itʼs a hot-button topic that leaves government with a very difficult decision. The total economic wealth associated with close to 90,000 acres of spuds is in excess of $1 billion and that money finds its way into every Island home and business.
Environment Minister Janice Sherry has received an advisory board recommendation on deep wells but is reluctant to make that public, at least at this time. She had suggested to the P.E.I. Potato Board that since itʼs their idea to lift the moratorium, it should present its arguments in a public forum to allay the concerns of Islanders.
The board issued its argument Saturday in the form of a rational, well-crafted opinion piece to The Guardian. Its key argument was science supports a reasonable, supplemental irrigation program because all demands of water in the province today “use less than two per cent of the annual groundwater recharge.” The board isnʼt seeking unfettered approval and notes that applications would be judged by the department while considering local water sources and supply. Already, there is strong reaction to chairman Gary Linkletterʼs opinion piece, all of it negative.
The National Farmers Union has made its position known, and as expected, is vehemently against the idea. The NFU is left of centre on most environmental issues and had vigorously opposed changes to the limits on land ownership last year. The federation usually leans right of centre, and had supported the increased acreage limits. The federation is usually more concerned with the bottom line for farmers, with the belief that a farmer losing money is a farmer leaving agriculture. But it does endorse the mantra of farmers being economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible.
The federation has yet to take a public stance on the well issue. And government is surely waiting for the farm group to signal its support or opposition before going any further. Itʼs likely there will be public hearings but a decision must be made soon to have any impact on this growing season. Potato farmers would have to dig wells, buy expensive irrigation equipment and be ready for any dry weather to assist their valuable crop. It would take months to take advantage of any change to the moratorium.
It would be a surprise if the federation doesnʼt support the potato board Friday and pass a resolution recommending the lifting of the moratorium, at least in some regulated form. A release from the board on the annual meeting already signals that position. It states there has been a lot of recent “controversy and misinformation” being circulated surrounding deep-water wells and water quality on P.E.I. The key word here is misinformation.

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