Corporations are limited to 3,000 acres under the Lands Protection Act
By Diego Flammini
Allowing P.E.I. farmers to own more land will help secure the future of potato farming in the province.
That’s the message executives from Cavendish Farms presented during a meeting with P.E.I.’s standing committee on communities, land and environment on Thursday.
Under the Lands Protection Act, individuals can own about 1,000 acres (404 hectares) of land, and corporations can own about 3,000 acres (1,214 hectares) of land.
Cavendish Farms would like to see those numbers doubled to about 2,000 acres (809 hectares) and 6,000 acres (2,428 hectares) for individuals and corporations, respectively.
The government needs to increase its outdated restrictions to accommodate fewer potato farms with larger acreages.
“We believe the future of the P.E.I. potato industry is at risk,” Cavendish Farms told Farms.com today in an emailed statement. “Land limits developed in 1982 can no longer sustain today’s farms. The family farm has evolved – so too should the rules imposed on it.”
P.E.I. potato yields have declined in recent years.
Growers averaged 298 hundredweight (cwt) of potatoes per acre in 2014. That number fell to 291.3 cwt in 2015, government data shows. Yields increased to 296.7 cwt in 2016 before falling to 284.4 cwt last year.
Dry conditions have caused low yields, forcing Cavendish to import potatoes from places like New Brunswick and Maine.
“Farms on P.E.I. face productivity challenges, while most other regions are showing a trend toward improving productivity,” Cavendish said in its statement.
Increasing land ownership opportunities could be a good way to increase potato production in P.E.I., but the government would have to do it in a manner that ensures family farms can remain competitive, said Richard Brown, P.E.I.’s Environment Minister.
“I don’t want three or four corporations owning 25 per cent of the land on Prince Edward Island,” he told CBC Thursday. “I don’t think any Islander would want it. That’s why we do have the Lands Protection Act.”
Farms.com has reached out to the P.E.I. Potato Board for comment.