The PEI Federation of Agriculture (PEIFA) is pleased with the recent signal from the provincial government it is prepared to work closely with the Island farming community as the industry gears up for the 2020 growing season.
COVID-19 has been a challenge for many aspects of PEI’s business community, and federation Executive Director Robert Godfrey said the agriculture industry has been no different. While retail sales to grocery stores remain strong, the food service market has dried up as restaurants and hotels have been forced to close down.
He explained that, in some cases, off-Island facilities that process local products were forced to close or reduce their hours because their employees were infected with COVID-19. These events have in many cases placed downward pressure on both demand and prices and left Island farms open to a great amount of financial risk.
The PEIFA had been lobbying for changes to the business risk management program known as AgriStability since it was changed to the detriment of farmers in 2013. As a cost shared program between Ottawa and PEI, this announcement has seen PEI step forward with their share of the costs while Ottawa has not yet seen the importance of maintaining a vibrant farm sector.
“We are certainly thankful that the province has heard our concerns and responded in a positive way” said PEIFA President Ron Maynard. “Managing risk has been at the forefront of our discussions with both levels of Government for a number of years. It is time for Ottawa to recognize the leadership the PEI Government has taken and put forward their share of these dollars.”
In addition to the positive changes to AgriStability, the province has aided our potato members with a package that will ensure there is a viable market for their 2019 crop. This certainly is welcome news to many farms that are heading to the field to plant a new crop in the coming weeks.
“This announcement provides some hope to farmers as they make decisions on if and what to plant in this year of unmatched uncertainty.” Maynard said. “This is a positive step for our industry and we remain steadfast as we move forward with this ever evolving disease.”
While the announcement may relieve some stress for farmers, Maynard said the federation echoes the message from the province about the importance of managing mental health. The federation reminds farmers about the Farmer Assistance Program offered to the farming community. It reminds farmers that if they need someone to talk to, they can reach a councilor at 902-626-9787.