Prince Edward Island

Dairy, hogs, and beef are the main commodities on the island. Both the beef and the hog industries on the island are in jeopardy.

One of the major issues on “Spud Island” is the erosion of the world-famous red soil. Fields are often left bare once potatoes are harvested, leaving the soil to erode.One of the major issues on “Spud Island” is the erosion of the world-famous red soil. Fields are often left bare once potatoes are harvested, leaving the soil to erode.“Good Soil is better than money is the bank” was once a commonly used expression on PEI. But, as Eco-PEI points out, most farmers on the island are no longer singing to that old tune. Most farmers on the island jumped on the conventional band-wagon in the early 60’s and 70’s, shifting what was once agriculture based on closed-systems (no external inputs) to heavy reliance on chemical fertilizers, feed additives, antibiotics and hormones. Now, farmers neither have good soil or money in the bank! (For more, visit the National Farmers’ Union website for publications on the issues).

While change is afoot with a growing organic industry, the current agricultural profile is troubling:

Dominated by it’s industrial potato farming (which makes up 53% of farm cash receipts and plants upwards of 95,000 acres of potatoes a year), there is a strong push from farmers and environmental coalitions asking the provincial government to make the following changes in agricultural policy:

  • Reduction in potato acreage
  • Significant reduction in pesticide use on remaining acreage
  • Regulation and enforcement of existing producer guidelines for soil and water conservation
  • Increased monitoring and enforcement of existing legislation
  • Increased support for organic agriculture

    ”Despite the improved farming methods of many producers, the potato industry has been unable to take the necessary steps to protect the health of our rivers and ourselves. The continuing fish kills from chemical run-off are attracting a great deal of negative publicity, not only in Canada but around the world. They pose serious threats to our health, the health of children, tourism, shellfish and agricultural industries, especially in light of all the money the Island has invested in the PEI Food Trust brand. There is strong support for these legislative changes across the Island.” Said EcoPEI.

PEI is dotted with just over 1,800 farms, with dairy dominating the livestock industry in the province.

  • 85 poultry farms
  • 193 hog farms producing upwards of 126,000 hogs/yr (note: this number is on the decline as a recent closure of the only hog processing facility on the island as well as prices well below acceptable has hit small and medium scale producers hard)
  • 863 beef cattle farms producing 28,000 head/yr (note: this number is also on the decline as the future of the only federally inspected beef plant is uncertain, and prices remain too low for family farms to be viable)
  • 265 dairy farms

Like the rest of the country, PEI is experiencing a rapid loss of small family farms, and is facing the ongoing encroachment of the corporate control of farming. While farm numbers continue to diminish on the island, those still in operation are industrializing, and concentrating on one commodity (such as potatoes or poultry).