When he spoke to last year's annual meeting of the PEI Potato Board, Kevin MacIsaac was hoping what he called the Harvest From Hell" that featured less than ideal growing conditions virtually right across the country would prove to be an anomaly.
It unfortunately looks like the general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada was wrong. While the epicenter of the crisis has shifted, projections are for even greater losses in terms of acreage than in 2018.
As every Island grower knows all too well, a major percentage of the 17,620 acres left in the ground last year occurred in the fields of the Cradle of Confederation. he combination of a cold and wet spring, a dry summer, several frosts and a cold and wet fall meant almost 7,000 acres were unable to be harvested.
While over 1,000 acres had to be left in the ground this year and there are storage issues especially in Prince County, the vast majority of the projected 18,600 unharvested acres this year is in Manitoba and Alberta. An early October storm saw 12,000 acres lost in Manitoba.
Meanwhile in Alberta, an early August hailstorm combined with a snowstorm in late September translated into the loss of 4,650 acres. The losses are expected to translate into tight supplies in both provinces, especially on the processing side, since increased acreage had been planted to service the demand created by new plant openings.
Closer to home, many livestock growers are facing a dramatic hike in their feed bills due to the damage Post Tropic Storm Dorian caused to the corn crop. Field after field was knocked over by the combination of high winds and heavy rains, slowing growth and resulting in harvest challenges and concern among livestock growers about toxin levels.
A cold and wet spring dramatically impacted the yield of many forage crops, leaving many livestock producers few options to a corn based ration. Unfortunately, some producers are making the unenviable choice of having to downsize their herds due to the added costs.
While a case is being documented to support a possible provincial application to Ottawa under the AgriRecovery program, it will be sometime late next year before any dollars will flow. The $15.3 million to the potato industry in relation to the 2018 crop was announced this July.
The weather is always the greatest unknown factor in agriculture, but hopefully climate change will not make funding designed to cover natural disasters a common occurrence.
Marie Claude Bibeau held on to the job of agriculture and agri-food minister when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his cabinet November 20. It has been over two month since the wheels of the federal government stopped (at least at the ministerial level) and having Bibeau return means she can get to work right away on a number of challenges facing the industry. her predecessor in the post, Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay, also retains his veterans affairs portfolio.