P.E.I. Potato Farmers Push to Suspend 18-Year-Old Ban on Agricultural Irrigation
The hot weather has been devastating according to more than 180 potato farmers who for the most part across the province are dealing with severe drought conditions with record low rainfall amounts.
Farmers need rain but with little or none recently, they are pleading to the province to lift the 18-year ban on the use of agricultural irrigation systems to water their crops, which are in dire need of moisture.
P.E.I. potato farmers grow on average 2.5 billion pounds of potatoes per year and that total is in jeopardy as there has been almost no rain since the potato crop went in the ground, said Robert Godfrey, executive director with the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture. “It’s historically dry across the province,” said Godfrey.
To make matters worse, Godfrey says this is the fourth straight summer where dry conditions have hampered the growing season, which is cutting into farmers’ yields and profits.
Western P.E.I. has been particularly dry, where the city of Summerside, for example, typically sees around 258 millimeters of rain from June through August. But so far this summer Environment Canada says only about 65mm of rain has fallen.
“I would say this is probably the worst year that we’ve seen since 2001,” said Godfrey. “I had a farmer tell me the other day that he had to go back to 1963 or 1964 to when it was this dry across the province.”
Following the 2001 drought, P.E.I. banned the drilling and use of high-capacity wells for irrigation on farms. Godfrey says that needs to change and he calls the irrigation ban discriminatory and harmful to farmers.
“You are able to get a high capacity well for water access and you can irrigate if you have a golf course for example,” said Godfrey. “And if you’re building a car wash, you can get a high capacity well, but if you want to irrigate crops and grow food you can’t.”
Greg Donald, general manager of the P.E.I. potato board, agrees with Godfrey and says the moratorium on agricultural irrigation needs to be suspended.