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Ensuring Environmental Sustainability a Priority for Island Potato Growers
(CHARLOTTETOWN, PE  -  March 14th, 2013)  The Action Committee for Sustainable Land Management that was formed to study the incidence of fish death in the Barclay Brook last summer recently tabled their report and provided a number of specific recommendations to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.  The potato industry was represented by General Manager Greg Donald and Board Chairman Gary Linkletter working as part of the committee, as well as through contributions by individual farmers in the Barclay Brook Watershed during investigation and consultation.
 
This Committee assessed a number of factors that can impact fish habitat, including non-agricultural runoff, stream flow trends, fertilizer and pesticide usage, field topography, soil structure, soil conservation practices used, watercourse buffer zone status, and field headland areas.  The Committee met with producers in the Barclay Brook watershed and visited the Barclay Brook stream and adjacent farm lands in order to gather information about past fish mortality events in the watershed and examine the physical geography of the area.  Based on information gleaned from this process, the Action Committee determined that the recent incidence of fish death in this area was caused by run-off from agricultural fields during a heavy rainfall event.  
 
To mitigate against future fish mortality events in this specific location, the Committee came up with a list of 18 recommendations which should be implemented for the Barclay Brook watershed but which could also apply for other sensitive areas with similar geographical features.  These recommendations are a mix of actions directed to provincial government departments, individual crop producers, producer organizations and watershed groups.  Three key recommendations were considered to be pivotal to the future success of any responsible farm management strategy in at-risk watersheds, namely:
 
1.   The need to implement soil conservation practices in fields adjacent to watercourses,
2.   The establishment of an environmental fund for the removal of land from agricultural production that is prone to soil erosion and surface runoff, and
3.   The need to have agricultural engineers examine fields in the area of fish mortality as soon as possible after an event.
 
Prince Edward Island potato farmers are supportive of efforts such as these that carefully examine events that impact the Island’s rivers and streams and provide specific recommendations that can be collaboratively acted upon.  Environmentally sustainable production of potatoes is not only in the best interest of our natural environment and all Islanders, but is also the most economically sustainable option for growers.  Island 
growers currently work with a number of watershed groups, soil conservation groups, and government officials to find better ways to grow potatoes while being effective stewards of the land and eliminating adverse effects on our shared natural resources.
 
The potato industry is the single largest economic driver of the agriculture industry on Prince Edward Island, worth over one billion dollars to the Island economy each year.  Prince Edward Island is also the largest potato-producing province in Canada.  
 
The Prince Edward Island Potato Board (www.peipotato.com) represents Island potato growers and assists in growing the market for PEI Potatoes locally, nationally, and internationally.   PEI Potatoes can be found on Twitter at @PEIPotatoes and on Facebook at facebook.com/PEIPotatoes.