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Labour, carbon pricing 'major risks' for P.E.I. farming: agriculture federation president

David Mol, president of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, says carbon pricing and labour are two of the bigger issues facing the farming industry in P.E.I. He was speaking Friday at the federation’s annual general meeting in Charlottetown.
David Mol, president of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, says carbon pricing and labour are two of the bigger issues facing the farming industry in P.E.I. He was speaking Friday at the federation’s annual general meeting in Charlottetown. - Dave Stewart

Carbon pricing and labour are two of the biggest issues facing Island agriculture right now, says the president of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture (PEIFA).

David Mol delivered the president’s report Friday at the federation’s annual general meeting in Charlottetown.

“Labour continues to be a major risk for the industry and your PEIFA does not need the risk assessment to be complete before moving forward on this important file,’’ Mol said.

The president noted that the federation has recently partnered with a consulting firm in applying for funding from the Canadian Status of Women Council.

“If successful in our application, we will examine how to create better opportunity for women in agriculture. This project will tackle not only gender equality but labour as well. Labour remains a priority issue for farmers and for the federation.’’

Mol said the PEIFA remains vigilant on the temporary foreign worker file and is exploring ways to get more of the province’s youth to take up agriculture as a career.

Related: Henderson gives state-of-the-province address to P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture

Another issue the federation is facing this year is carbon pricing and how it may support agriculture.

“The PEIFA is eagerly awaiting the province’s announcement on this policy and wants to work with government to ensure farmers are not left simply paying taxes,’’ Mol said. “This policy needs to account for the need for us to be competitive with our regional, national and global competitors.’’

Mol and touched on the issue of public trust, that even though Islanders live close to farms “they don’t necessarily understand what we do’’. So, they’ve come up with a concept called Farm and Food Care P.E.I., an initiative designed to bridge the gap by including a broad band of committee members from retail suppliers to primary producers. This led to the hiring of Kayla Nieuwhof as program co-ordinator.

“This program puts us on the offence with public trust and, as it moves forward, I am excited about its potential.’’

Mol also touched on the new Canadian Agriculture Partnership (CAP) that was signed in St. John’s, N.L., last year. The most notable changes include the addition of climate change and public trust within the agreement. CAP also includes a full-scale review of Canada’s business risk management programs.

Mol spoke about the national food policy but said the federation’s past-president Mary Robinson has been leading the file. Robinson has argued about the need for this to be a strategy and not a policy; about the need for it to allow for evolvement as the food system moves forward.

Also, the PEIFA renegotiated its terms with Scotiabank in relation to its administration of the advanced payment program.

“With over $40 million annually advanced to producers, PEIFA put the lending out for tender and reached a new deal that includes the reduction of rates for producers,’’ Mol said.

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