PEI Commission on a Sustainable Future for Farming

The Motion:

Sponsored by: Pauline Howard, Teresa Doyle, Darcie Lanthier, Soleil Hutchinson and Sally Bernard

See the full motion, including supporting evidence, here.

Whereas agriculture is of major importance on PEI, economically, socially, and culturally;

Whereas agriculture, domestically and globally, is highly dependent on government policies, and these policies, together with markets, determine what systems become, or remain, economically and environmentally viable;

Whereas agriculture occurs in natural environments and ecosystems and it is highly dependent on this natural resource base to remain sustainable in the long term;

Whereas exports are essential for PEI agriculture due to its small population, but a commodity model based on low prices and high volumes puts island industries in disadvantage, due to our small land mass and fragile ecosystems;

Whereas farming practices can influence the role of agriculture in the climate crisis, and decisions made on these practices can either contribute to amplify the crisis or be part of the solution;

Therefore, be it resolved that the Green Party seek that a government-sponsored, inclusive, non-partisan commission be established to examine the future of farming on PEI. The Commission will be comprised of subject matter experts and stakeholder representatives, including farmers, processors, and the civil society. The Commission’s mandate will be to develop and consult on a ten-year plan on how PEI can transition to a model of sustainable agriculture, with consideration to all connected issues, and what role the PEI provincial government, industries, and citizens can play in fostering this transition.

Background:

Agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse emissions (estimated 8.4% in Canada) while it is also a major player as a carbon sink. Farming practices play a very important role in this ratio of emissions vs sinks. Farming can be part of the climate crisis solution.  

No one wins if the much-needed debate on farming practices becomes "us" vs "them" (for example organic vs conventional). All farmers are vulnerable to market pressures and drivers, and all farmers depend on the environment for sustainability.  Finding common ground is important to move forward with a transformation that improves the conditions for all. Farmers are in business and a change in farming practices can be achieved if the incentives are there.

Agriculture policy is interconnected with the environment, land use, fisheries and the economy and any policies must appreciate this interconnection. Moving towards a circular economy that reduces the dependence on external inputs, recycles byproducts, and closes nutrient loops can generate additional value for all involved when waste from one process becomes the input into another process (example: organic compost, biogas fuel).

Although this would not be the first instance of one such Commission, there are many good reasons to establish one now. In the spring of 2008, the federal and provincial governments established the Commission on the Future of Agriculture and Agri-Food on Prince Edward Island, mandated to assess the state of agriculture in the province, articulate a vision for the future, and develop an action plan to achieve the vision. More than 10 years have passed since that Commission delivered its report, “Growing the Island Way,” with 16 recommendations. It is time to take stock, review what has been accomplished, how the environment has changed since, and what we have learned. In hindsight, now we see that citizens of the community at large and some sectors of the industry were underrepresented in that dialogue. Other stakeholders such as Island First Nations were not represented at all. The backdrop of climate change was not as well understood as it is today and it is barely mentioned by the report, mainly in terms of its effects on competitiveness by undermining the viability of “some farming regions,” rather than a crisis close to home.