The commitment from Agriculture and Land Minister Bloyce Thompson to establish price insurance for the beef industry, essentially come hell or high water, is welcome news for the sector but more details are needed.
During debate on his departmental spending estimates, he told veteran Liberal MLA Robert Henderson he was prepared to act whether his Maritime colleagues agreed or not. There is certainly no question a regional approach is the desired objective. Given the fact the number of cattle involved is small compared to other parts of the country and many of them are going to a regional facility, namely Atlantic Beef Products Inc, a regional pricing plan makes a lot of sense.
There is currently a pricing formula in western Canada and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (including its provincial groups in PEI, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) have been urging for the program to be implemented nationally. It was first developed in Alberta and later adopted by all of the western provinces. The western program can't be applied as is to this region and there is no question COVID has slowed down the discussion between the provinces but now is the time to move.
The minister did not offer any cost comparisons between a regional formula or going it alone. In fact, there is actually no money allocated for the program in the fiscal year that began April 1. As Henderson pointed out, that likely means a pricing formula is still months into the future and the time to act is now.
On another front, the minister is to be commended for his realistic assessment of how crop insurance will be impacted by climate change. He is right on the money when he says the key is developing new crops and varieties that are better suited to a changing climate and charging producers more money in premiums for varieties that no longer grow well in the new climate is not sustainable over the long term.
It does bring home the value of made in PEI research to determine just exactly what those crops and varieties are. There is a major role to play for both levels of government and industry to ensure that research is largely in the public domain and involves producers on the ground floor.
Climate change is likely to be the biggest challenge producers face for the rest of this decade and well beyond. Farming has proven to be one of the most adaptable sectors of the modern economy and there is no reason to believe that Island producers won't prevail in the face of a changing climate.
Finally, congratulations to Tiny Acres Holsteins of Belmont, who were recently named winners of the PEI Veterinary Medical Association Quality Milk Award. The award is given annually to the farm with the lowest average somatic cell score as determined by the PEI Dairy lab. Runner-up is the farm of Debbie and Alan Aten of Springvale, and second runner-up is Bernadale Holstein of Richmond. All three farms are excellent examples of the tradition of excellence that makes Island dairy producers second to none in the country.