Newfoundland farms buck the trend

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Economy Agriculture earnings remain strong

While farmers in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are earning less and swimming in debt, this province's farmers are actually increasing earnings overall, says the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture.

Merv Wiseman said numbers from a recent report on agriculture in other Atlantic provinces cannot necessarily be taken as indicators of the earnings here.

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While farmers in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are earning less and swimming in debt, this province's farmers are actually increasing earnings overall, says the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture.

Merv Wiseman said numbers from a recent report on agriculture in other Atlantic provinces cannot necessarily be taken as indicators of the earnings here.

"Comparatively speaking, in Newfoundland and Labrador we've been kind of bucking the trend," he said.

The report, released by GPI Atlantic, says that farmers in Nova Scotia and P.E.I are earning less than any time in the past four decades. It says that farms in Nova Scotia have lost money in four of the last six years, while farms on P.E.I. have lost money five out of the last seven years.

According to the research group, the reason for the loss is that farmers' products are not priced high enough to account for the rising cost of operating farms, which has been exacerbated by the increases in fuel prices.

Wiseman said the reason this province has escaped some of the problems is that many of our farm products are supply managed. That means the product has been regulated to give the industry the ability to build prices around the cost of production, as well as manage the amount of product to maintain a more manageable supply.

"When you look at how agriculture takes place in this province, we have the largest percentage of any province in this country of supply management," he said, with 75 per cent of industry falling into that category.

However, he said when you look at certain specific industries that aren't supply managed, such as the livestock and vegetable sectors, the outlook isn't as promising.

"Our vegetable industry has shrunk, and continues to shrink, largely because of the declining incomes in that specific industry," he said, adding livestock producers are experiencing the same squeeze.

"(But) it's only where you lose these powers in the marketplace that you get the problems like in the livestock and vegetable industries.

emclean@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture, GPI Atlantic

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island

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