March 22nd, 2014

Apparently, the “ad-as-news-story” deal is still on at The Guardian, as evidenced by this story on A4 of Friday’s print edition; it was the lead story on-line for most of the day.  The story has a “graphic supplied by the P.E.I. Potato Board” graphic, now nicely colourized from their print ad last week and a huge quarter-page in the print edition:
Link:
Guardian heralds Potato Board

P.E.I. Potato Board heralds environmental record

image copyright PEI Potato Board

(There is no by-line for this story, but presumably it was a staff writer….at the Potato Board….)

The P.E.I. Potato Board says itʼs time for the public to move past the history and look at what todayʼs potato growers are doing to protect the environment.
Gary Linkletter, chairman of the P.E.I. Potato Board, emphasizes that “potato farmers of today have learned a lot from past challenges and are making tangible changes in production practices in order to farm in a more environmentally sustainable fashion.”
In a news release, Linkletter says P.E.I. farmers have the highest level of enhanced environmental farm planning in Canada and also farm under the most stringent environmental legislation in Canada.
“This means P.E.I. potato growers meet and often exceed both voluntarily developed and regulated standards that are higher than any other farmers in the country,” said Linkletter.
Through collaborative effort between potato growers and the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture, construction of soil conservation structures has resulted in 1.1 million feet of terraces, 2.1 million feet of grassed waterways and 270,000 feet of farmable berms.
Potato growers also use a wide range of other tools to improve environmental sustainability, Linkletter said.
The approaches include use of buffer zones and set aside of sensitive land, nutrient management, strip cropping, crop rotation and residue-tillage equipment, new and lower input potato varieties and integrated pest management.
Another initiative, Farming 4R Island, partners with other industry players to foster beneficial management practices that protect soil quality and reduce nitrate levels.
“Todayʼs grower is looking to be more efficient, more effective and be more environmental responsible. Thatʼs why weʼre interested in supplemental irrigation. The Department of the Environment has indicated that agricultural irrigation accounts for only one per cent of total water usage,” said Linkletter, as he and the potato board continue lobbying for deep-water wells in the province.
“Some preliminary studies performed as part of the nitrate pilot project with the Kensington North Watershed Group in 2013 showed an 11.5 per cent increase in income per acre with supplemental irrigation due to increased marketable yields, while another test from the same study showed a reduction in average residual nitrate levels by 31.4 per cent. Thatʼs very encouraging information for people interested in having a viable potato industry while trying to be even more environmentally responsible.”

———-
Two comments:
So many farmers have environmental farm plans — great, but:  Farmers *have* to have an environmental farm plan in place to qualify for related programs and grants.

And the pilot project being done mentioned in the last paragraph?  So, can that study be released for others to review it?

———-



In the letters section were two letters on high capacity wells, and one on pesticides. I’ll reprint the other well one tomorrow.
Bethany Doyle’s letter:

True impact of wells remains to be done

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 21, 2014

Editor:
In the Guardian editorial of March 12, the editor claims that if irrigation is needed, deep-water wells are the most efficient option. Since opposition to deep-water wells is pervasive and well reasoned, I believe that we need to give serious consideration to other ways of solving the problem such as improving the health of the soil.
In the same editorial, the editor refers to “other provinces or states where opposition to deep water wells is limited.” The reason opposition to deep-water wells may be limited in other places is that P.E.I. faces unique water supply challenges. Because of our soil structure and our dependence on groundwater as the sole supplier of drinking water, our water supply is uniquely fragile. We need to take great caution. And we need to find in our unique challenges incentive to work to improve the health of the soil so that there is an increase in its water-holding capacity.
The editor also says that “the standing committee and government have difficult tasks ahead as they must decide if compromise is possible to protect our water resource even if science supports additional deep-water wells . . .” This seems to imply that “science” supports additional deep-water wells while in fact many believe that credible scientific data come from peer-reviewed studies. Such studies regarding the true impact of deep-water wells on aquatic ecosystems have yet to be done.
The current moratorium on deep-water wells makes good sense and needs to be maintained.
Bethany Doyle,
Charlottetown
———–
Joan Diamond writes about (not) being protected from pesticides
Protection from pesticides? Afraid not
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 21, 2014
By Joan Diamond (commentary)

As a rural inhabitant of P.E.I., I have always been concerned about the rampant use of pesticides here. So when I recently heard that potatoes would be planted this year in the field 25 feet from my doorway, I decided to do some research about what kind of protection is provided for home owners in a situation like mine. Apparently, absolutely zero is the answer. A quick look at the P.E.I. Department of Environment Frequently Asked Questions, gave this concise information on the subject. source:http://www.gov.pe.ca/environment /index.php3?number=1040762&lang=E
<<
2. Do farmers have to provide advance notice,
to homeowners whose property adjoins the farmerʼs field, when they plan to make a pesticide application?
No. Farmers do not have to provide advance notification of a pesticide application. However, when asked to do so, most are happy to provide this information.
3.  How close to my property line can my neighbour, or someone acting on his/her behalf, apply a pesticide?
A pesticide can be legally applied to the edge of a property line.
4.   Are there pesticide-free ʻbuffer zonesʼ around schools, parks, playgrounds, and sports fields in P.E.I.?
No. There are no pesticide-free buffer zones around these areas.
5. If I receive a written notice that a neighbour is having a pesticide applied to their property, can I legally STOP this application?
No. A property owner has a legal right to apply a pesticide to their property if they wish to do so.
6. I have received a written notice that a neighbour is having a pesticide applied to his/her property, but the notice does not provide the specific address of the property. Does the applicator have to provide this information to me?
No. Regulations under the P.E.I. Pesticides Control Act require that advance written notification must be provided to individuals who live within 25 metres of an area that is to be treated with a pesticide. The regulations do not require that the applicator provide the specific address of the property to be treated.
7. When is the wind blowing too strongly to apply a liquid pesticide, or a pesticide under pressure?
Regulations under the P.E.I. Pesticides Control Act set a maximum wind speed of 20 km/hr. However, even if the wind speed is below this level, it is the applicatorʼs responsibility to make sure that there is no drift of pesticide onto neighbouring properties.
…….
One would think that with ongoing fish kills, high nitrate levels and some of the highest rates of cancer, asthma and autism in Canada, a red flag would be going up. One would think, as I did, that there would be some limitations in place to protect Islanders. Instead, farmers are looking to dig deeper wells, which will undoubtedly have further detrimental effects on our already tainted water.
Pesticides are toxins, toxins we continue dumping into our soil and air in every non-organic potato field approximately 15 to 20 times each season.
Yet Islanders continue to be surprised about hearing every day about another friend being diagnosed with cancer, or another child being born with asthma or autism.
We are allowing this to happen. It is time for change. If you care about the health of Islanders, present and future, then take action. Write a letter to the editor, contact our minister of Environment and/or our premier. Buy organic produce, locally when you can. Get involved. Make some noise.

Joan Diamond is a rural Islander who lives in Fairview
———-

The Department of Environment webpage cited is here
and a screenshot is below:

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