Ron Maynard, newly elected president of the PEI Federation of Agriculture, and has been busy working with farmers as they do their best to adapt to changes in the industry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the federation held its annual general meeting in January, priorities were set for talks of the review of the Land Protection Act and a review of crop rotation. Members of the federation were surveyed, and policies were going to be worked on regarding the rotation. All that has been put on hold for now.
“Each commodity has a particular concern,” he explained. “With restaurants and hotels closing down, the french fry market has basically dried up, so we have a lot of processing potatoes that don’t have a home for them. That means there’s potatoes in warehouses that would normally be processed and they’re not being processed right now. That kind of extends the season, and that’s what the PEI government assistance announced, to help extend that holding period. Potatoes can be processed, they’ll just be processed a little later. Instead of being in March and April, it will be May and June.”
Another issue is making sure the temporary foreign workers arriving on the Island who would normally be arriving around this time are able to arrive. Mr Maynard said around 600 temporary foreign workers come to the Island every year and help during various times of the agricultural growing season. These workers tend to plant crops, moving onto help harvest strawberry plants, and then going back to help weed or thin out the crops they helped plant when they first arrived.
This is Mr Maynard’s first time as president of the federation, but he’s not new to the agriculture industry. Co-owner of Port Hill Milking Co, for many years he was a member of the Dairy Farmers of Prince Edward Island and served on the Dairy Farmers of Canada board of directors for 18 years. Mr Maynard is also on the board of directors for the International Dairy Federation.
With agriculture, there’s always uncertainty, but the COVID-19 pandemic adds another one to markets. There’s a concern of how long the pandemic will continue to impact the various industries in the province, and what the impact would be for people like dairy farmers if the virus made it into the ADL processing plant.
While the Island’s agriculture industry are facing some quandaries, some sectors are seeing growth in part of their markets. One example is in the dairy industry, where canned milk has been a shrinking market for quite some time. Mr Maynard said consumers seem to be shifting away from using cream and switching back to canned milk for things like tea and coffee.
The federation is also working on its strategic plan, created a couple of years ago. One item from that plan is the re-branding of its logo.
“The new logo for the federation is much bolder,” Mr Maynard explained. “It shows two hands together in a handshake, with a plant growing out of that handshake. It shows what we do with the federation, and that we want to work with people, whether it be other people in government, or stakeholders in the industry, and we want to work together to grow the overall agriculture industry here on Prince Edward Island. The hands are in red as the soils, and the green leaf, and a blue background shows that it is Prince Edward Island, and we have those three things that are important to us here on the Island.”