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P.E.I. potato farmers have access to $15.6 million fund after difficult fall harvest

Brett Francis, left, and David Francis assess one of their harvested potato fields, which is covered in mud and puddles from the heavy rain that fell overnight Saturday and into Sunday. The owners and operators of David and Brett Francis Family Farm have not been able to harvest potatoes since last Tuesday due to the wet and cold weather.
Brett Francis, left, and David Francis assess one of their harvested potato fields in October 2018, after heavy rain during a wet, cold fall season. - Katherine Hunt

P.E.I. potato farmers who were affected by cold, wet weather in the fall of 2018 will be able to access a new, $15.6 million fund through the provincial and federal governments.
The 2018 Canada-P.E.I. Fall Harvest Recovery Initiative will provide financial assistance to producers who had extraordinary costs recovering their potatoes from the cold, sodden fields, as well as cleaning and disinfecting storage facilities. 
Estimates reported to The Guardian in December were that 15 per cent of P.E.I.’s potato harvest was abandoned due to the conditions. The losses have cost the P.E.I.’s Agricultural Insurance Corporation $39 million due to pay-outs to farmers. 
Jason Hayden, a potato farmer based in Pownal, said farmers were beset by a perfect storm of a wet spring, a dry summer, frost throughout the growing season and a wet harvest.
Hayden was forced to leave some of his own crop in the ground; his harvest lasted into November, almost three weeks later than normal.
“It was a very expensive crop to harvest. It wasn't efficient at all. It dragged on for weeks longer than it should have,” Hayden told The Guardian.
Cardigan MP and Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay attended an announcement of the initiative at Wilfred MacMillan and Sons’ farm in Pownal Friday. He noted the program, which is under the AgriRecovery Framework, aims to help farmers recover from severe conditions they faced last fall and get their businesses back on track.
“Farming can be a very difficult career at the best of times, so I’m so pleased to be able to provide this much-needed support for our farmers after such a tough season,” MacAulay said.
Potatoes are the primary cash crop on the Island, and P.E.I. continues to be the largest potato-producing province in Canada, growing one-quarter of the potatoes in the country. The heaviest losses from last year’s growing season were sustained by potato farmers.
The province exported over $400 million in seed, fresh and processed potato products last year – over half of total agricultural exports for P.E.I.
Hayden said the AgriRecovery Framework will provide assistance for costs that may not be covered under provincial crop insurance. This might include costs related to storage or unsuccessful planting of cover crops, which are meant to protect and enrich soil.
Additional information about the initiative will be available through the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture and Land and will enable producers to mitigate impacts from the extreme weather and effectively continue their operations.

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