Andy Walker

With the federal election now just around the corner, Malpeque MP Wayne Easter took the opportunity to do a little unofficial campaigning when he announced federal funding for dairy research on antimicrobial resistance.

The research is vital towards solving a problem the dean of the Atlantic Veterinary College maintains ranks right up there with climate change as a threat to society. Simply put, if you develop an immunity to antibiotics, that is antimicrobial resistance at work. It happens in both humans and animals and the results are never positive. The college is part of a national program to measure antimicrobial resistance and help dairy farmers develop best practices against it.

Now back to Easter. He touted the $1.75 billion announced by Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie Claude Bibeau just as the last issue went to press. The money is designed to help offset the potential loss of market resulting from recent trade deals including the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

While $1.75 billion sounds like a lot of money, don't forget it is going to be divided roughly 11,000 ways and has to last eight years. According to the news release from the federal minister, a producer with 80 cows will receive a direct payment of $28,000 this year.

The veteran MP also offered what he called the "unwavering support" of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for supply management, calling it a "pillar of economic prosperity in Canada." The classic definition of a pillar is "a tall vertical structure of stone, wood, or metal, used as a support for a building" A cynic might suggest that if you keep hammering away at a pillar, sooner or later it is going to fall down. Enough said.

Shifting gears, I had the opportunity to attend the regional precision agriculture conference staged recently by the School of Sustainable Design Engineering at UPEI. The cutting edge research coming out of this school, which is the only one of its kind in the country, is certainly impressive.

From drones to smart sprayers to space satellites, it is clear PEI has the potential to become a national leader in precision agriculture. There are certainly challenges, as Dr. John Schueller of the University of Florida pointed out. He is one of the pioneers of precision agriculture, which he defined simply as technology that allows producers to improve productivity.

Given the small size of eastern Canada and PEI in particular, he said the province should not be scared to adapt technology developed elsewhere for use on PEI. He urged growers and researchers to be outward looking but inner focused."

Dr. Schueller also noted technology that has the best chance of being widely adapted is convenient to use and has readily identifiable benefits. He also warned there is some technology who times never seems to come, pointing out the first radio controlled tractor was unveiled in 1934 and it has never achieved widespread use.

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