Questions By Members, 24 June 2015
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI

ALUS program

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This morning I met with the potato board and had a frank and productive discussion around the challenges that those farmers are facing. Everybody around the table agreed that we need to find solutions to the current problems that create a situation where that industry becomes both consistently profitable and environmentally sound.

One of their concerns, and something that we discussed last night actually during the budget deliberations, is the ALUS program. At $150 per hectare, it’s inadequate to compensate farmers in their efforts to being good environmental stewards.

A question to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries: Given this administration’s stated commitment to improved environmental performance, in particular when it comes to water quality, is the minister willing to examine the ALUS program with a view to increasing the amount per hectare for which farmers are compensated in order to better protect our waterways?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

It’s a very good question. Every year when we go through our budgets we look at the allotments for one area or another. The $150 per hectare was a number that was put on at the time, but it’s not the only program we have to help the farmers in that area. We are working with the potato farmers on many fronts to deal with, as one thing, the tampering issue.

On the environmental side we help in many ways as well. The number of $150 was one that was put in place. All of those can be reviewed at any time and I can take a look at that, but there are other programs that we look at as well. But that ALUS program is one that’s really working well. We’re really pleased that it was taken in by our government a few years ago and we will certainly look to continue to support that financially.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party, first supplementary.

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Indeed it was an incredibly innovative and a very welcomed program when it was brought in many years ago, but apparently the ALUS program has, in recent years at least, left some money unspent on the table. While farmers around the table this morning were in complete agreement that the ALUS program is conceptually sound, they were concerned that they have not had a productive dialogue with government, with the department, in how ALUS might be changed to work better for them.

Given this government’s promise of improved engagement, will the minister commit to meeting with Island farmers to discuss their concerns around the ALUS program?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I have met with members of the potato board, and I was at the meeting the other night that they had at Red Shores. The big issue at the present time had to do, of course, with potato tampering. That’s the issue that we have been discussing.

We can look at the ALUS program. There’s also, under the ALUS program, there’s fencing dollars that are there that are available for farmers for that. It’s not just the $150 per hectare. But those are parameters that can be looked at from time to time, and I look forward to continued discussions with the potato board, with the federation of agriculture, with the different commodity boards, whatever that might be in any way, that we can enhance our agricultural economy and industry as we continue to grow to make this Canada’s Food Island and continue to boost the economy and the dollars into our farmers’ and fishers’ pockets.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party for a second supplementary.

Cover crop program

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, of course, we discussed many issues around the table this morning including the potato tampering situation.

One other thing that was brought up, and I hope my understanding on this is correct, is that a program used to exist that would provide incentives for farmers to plant cover crops in the fall, helping to protect, of course, and improve soil quality. If that’s indeed the case, could the minister explain why this program was discontinued?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

There have been a lot of programs that have come and gone over the years, and we have put dollars into programs to get them started up to prove to the farmers the valuability of that. It’s similar to the lime subsidy, the discounts for proper seed and sorts of things like that, that were put in place to get the farmers to realize – show them exactly what the value was for those incentives.

They’re not meant to be in there long term or to last forever because we have dollars we move from one area to another to improve our agriculture system and we do not continue to subsidize to a full rate. Sometimes a little subsidization of the grants is put in just to show that incentive, and prove to the farmers that: Hey, this idea can really help you. We’ll help you for the first few years to get you involved in it, to show you and prove to you that this is a great benefit. Then we pull back on that and put dollars into other areas. That’s what’s happening in many of these areas. By the time the farmer has had those incentives to begin with they realize: Hey, this is something I really want to invest in myself.

The dollars are moved from one are to the other, but necessarily not put in place to last forever. Okay?

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

ALUS program

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This morning I met with the potato board and had a frank and productive discussion around the challenges that those farmers are facing. Everybody around the table agreed that we need to find solutions to the current problems that create a situation where that industry becomes both consistently profitable and environmentally sound.

One of their concerns, and something that we discussed last night actually during the budget deliberations, is the ALUS program. At $150 per hectare, it’s inadequate to compensate farmers in their efforts to being good environmental stewards.

A question to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries: Given this administration’s stated commitment to improved environmental performance, in particular when it comes to water quality, is the minister willing to examine the ALUS program with a view to increasing the amount per hectare for which farmers are compensated in order to better protect our waterways?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

It’s a very good question. Every year when we go through our budgets we look at the allotments for one area or another. The $150 per hectare was a number that was put on at the time, but it’s not the only program we have to help the farmers in that area. We are working with the potato farmers on many fronts to deal with, as one thing, the tampering issue.

On the environmental side we help in many ways as well. The number of $150 was one that was put in place. All of those can be reviewed at any time and I can take a look at that, but there are other programs that we look at as well. But that ALUS program is one that’s really working well. We’re really pleased that it was taken in by our government a few years ago and we will certainly look to continue to support that financially.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party, first supplementary.

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Indeed it was an incredibly innovative and a very welcomed program when it was brought in many years ago, but apparently the ALUS program has, in recent years at least, left some money unspent on the table. While farmers around the table this morning were in complete agreement that the ALUS program is conceptually sound, they were concerned that they have not had a productive dialogue with government, with the department, in how ALUS might be changed to work better for them.

Given this government’s promise of improved engagement, will the minister commit to meeting with Island farmers to discuss their concerns around the ALUS program?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I have met with members of the potato board, and I was at the meeting the other night that they had at Red Shores. The big issue at the present time had to do, of course, with potato tampering. That’s the issue that we have been discussing.

We can look at the ALUS program. There’s also, under the ALUS program, there’s fencing dollars that are there that are available for farmers for that. It’s not just the $150 per hectare. But those are parameters that can be looked at from time to time, and I look forward to continued discussions with the potato board, with the federation of agriculture, with the different commodity boards, whatever that might be in any way, that we can enhance our agricultural economy and industry as we continue to grow to make this Canada’s Food Island and continue to boost the economy and the dollars into our farmers’ and fishers’ pockets.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party for a second supplementary.

Cover crop program

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, of course, we discussed many issues around the table this morning including the potato tampering situation.

One other thing that was brought up, and I hope my understanding on this is correct, is that a program used to exist that would provide incentives for farmers to plant cover crops in the fall, helping to protect, of course, and improve soil quality. If that’s indeed the case, could the minister explain why this program was discontinued?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

There have been a lot of programs that have come and gone over the years, and we have put dollars into programs to get them started up to prove to the farmers the valuability of that. It’s similar to the lime subsidy, the discounts for proper seed and sorts of things like that, that were put in place to get the farmers to realize – show them exactly what the value was for those incentives.

They’re not meant to be in there long term or to last forever because we have dollars we move from one area to another to improve our agriculture system and we do not continue to subsidize to a full rate. Sometimes a little subsidization of the grants is put in just to show that incentive, and prove to the farmers that: Hey, this idea can really help you. We’ll help you for the first few years to get you involved in it, to show you and prove to you that this is a great benefit. Then we pull back on that and put dollars into other areas. That’s what’s happening in many of these areas. By the time the farmer has had those incentives to begin with they realize: Hey, this is something I really want to invest in myself.

The dollars are moved from one are to the other, but necessarily not put in place to last forever. Okay?

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

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