Quite the list of presenters at the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry yesterday in the Coles Building. It ended up going from 10AM to about 3PM, with a short lunch break. But it was completely interesting.
On Compass, it was the top news story, a pastiche of clips:
First there was an update on the provincial hog industry by three very nice people (two producers and the executive director of the PEI Hog Commodity Marketing Board).
Hog farmers have had it rough, but they feel the cycle that was elongated into a “supercycle” of extended poor years is turning upwards.
Hog production on the Island has such history! (Especially the last dozen years with the local plant and such.) I do know that the large producers left have their hogs go off-Island to be butchered (at a federally-inspected). That was just accepted as fact. There was no mention of the small (successful) farmers who raise and sell fresh pork,fresh sausages, deli meats, and smoked hams and bacon. By the way, these local folks are likely at a Farmers’ Markets day :-).
(There was a great deal regarding other presentations I hope to address later.)
The last presentation on the moratorium on high capacity wells, the ninth!) was from the NDP PEI, and as I got a copy of their presentation, I’ll paste their closing statement here (the standing committee could just change the names and submit this to the Legislature):
In summary, the position of the NDP PEI is that the request by the corporate potato sector to lift the moratorium on deep water wells for irrigation purposes does not take into consideration the fact that access to a plentiful supply of safe drinking water is a basic human right, represents a direction in agriculture that we should be moving away from, and is not based on scientific evidence that has been properly adjudicated by either the scientific community or the public at large.
The NDP PEI recommends that:
- Before any consideration at all is given to the request by corporate agriculture to lift the deep-water well moratorium, a comprehensive provincial water policy be developed as a way to safeguard the public interest. Such a policy should be established using a process that involves a knowledgeable Task Force and full public consultation. Given the urgency of having such a water policy in place, this should be tackled by government in the next session, at which the Task Force should be struck and provided with a 6-month deadline to file its report.
- A further prerequisite to considering the request to lifting this moratorium should be a broadly based peer review process of the scientific justification for doing so. Scientists who are experts in groundwater research should be given the opportunity to debate and critique the merits of the proposal, using the precautionary principle as an overriding guideline. It is imperative that this process be open to the public. If, and only if, government wishes to pursue the request by the Potato Board & Cavendish Farms to lift the moratorium on deep water irrigation (i.e. beyond a simple: “No”), the process of exposing the data obtained by provincial employees to peer review and public consultation should be initiated by government during the next session, in parallel with the Water Task Force proceedings.
- The provincial government needs to develop a strategy to encourage farmers to move away from an industrialized model built around a monoculture of potatoes toward a diversified, organic, and sustainable model that is less dependent on irrigation and environmentally – harmful soil amendments. This is a long-term policy change that should have been done decades ago. It will require careful deliberation by government in consultation with appropriate experts, stakeholders, and the general public. Serious discussions should begin within government immediately.