Agriculture and Land Minister Bloyce Thompson is hoping to hear "very soon" on the status of the AgriRecovery application filed by the province related to crop losses in 2018.
The minister was questioned on the issue in the legislature recently by O'Leary-Inverness MLA Robert Henderson. The Liberal agriculture critic was the agriculture minister when the application was filed. Henderson said many potato producers are facing large bills for fertilizer, fuel and wages relating to planting this year's crop after sustaining significant losses last fall.
AgriRecovery is a federal disaster relief initiative to help producers with extraordinary costs of activities necessary for farmers to recover following a natural disaster. The program is administered by Ottawa but cost-shared with the provinces and territories.
"As a farmer myself, I know that Mother Nature can be very cruel and she was very cruel to our potato farmers last fall," Thompson said. " This all adds extra burdens to our farmers and as you say, their bills are starting to pile up right now. "
He commended Henderson for making the application, adding "we did get accepted for it and our government, as soon as we got in, that was our first line of business. The premier and I sat down and had discussions with everyone involved and our assessment has gone to the federal government and now we’re waiting back for their answer. "
Henderson noted over 7,000 acres of potatoes were left in the ground last year and there are concerns with volunteers and the impact they will have on this year's crop. He wanted to know if the minister had any indication how much money would be available under the program.
"I know the importance of the timing of this and we are constantly in conversations with our federal counterparts to get an answer and we’re patiently waiting," the minister replied. "We expect an answer any day on when the timeline will be. Over 8,200 Islanders are directly employed in the potato industry, so it is an important part of our society and our primary industry. "
Henderson also wanted to know if producers of other commodities would be able to tap into the funding to help cover losses they sustained. Thompson said that would indeed be the case but he could not give a dollar figure until the program was officially announced.