Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Nfld wants to double farm production

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has announced ambitious plans to double farm production over the next five years.

But that would still amount to less than many Ontario counties, such as Perth, Huron and Middlesex.

The province currently produces about 10 per cent of its food; the rest is imported.

Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne knows the provincial government has its work cut out but says government “has its shoulder to the wheel” on agriculture.

Byrne said agriculture and aquaculture are the two main focuses of the cabinet committee on jobs.

He says based on industry feedback, government has been working on measures that will allow current farmers to expand and encourage newcomers.

The province has secured $37 million from the federally funded Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

It includes funds to assist with land clearing, said Byrne. But as with most provinces, the majority of the federal funding is for risk management programs, such as crop insurance.

It's always been a wonder to me how wasteful politicians can be when it comes to farming on the rocky island. f

For example, the province was taken to the cleaners on a  multi-million-dollar Sprung Greenhouse venture in 1987.

It has lobbied for, and gained, quota for milk, chicken and eggs, but those industries have all required subsidies, such as to import feed and to build and maintain processing facilities. 

At one point, I wrote about chickens raised on subsidized Prairies-grown grain and slaughtered at a subsidized poultry processing plant, then shipped to a further-processing plant in Waterloo to turn it into retail-ready chicken for Ontario consumers.

At the time, Ontario was desperately short of chicken, yet supply management placed production in Newfoundland.

Politics also ended up placing substantial quota in the hands of premier Joey Smallwood's son, Joey Jr.

If Newfoundland's politicians want to double farm production, let them use provincial oil-industry royalties, not federal subsidies.