Maritime farmers brace for losses in wake of wet, stormy summer

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Agriculture

Maritime farmers are bracing for a potentially disastrous year in the wake of a wet and stormy summer.

Potato growers on Prince Edward Island and livestock producers throughout the region warned of significant losses on Wednesday as they surveyed sodden fields and ruined crops.

Anyone living in rural areas of the Maritimes this summer knew trouble was brewing as day after rainy day in August and September forced farmers to give up on hay and straw harvests, and kept many Island potato farmers off swampy fields.

FREDERICTON - Maritime farmers are bracing for a potentially disastrous year in the wake of a wet and stormy summer.

Potato growers on Prince Edward Island and livestock producers throughout the region warned of significant losses on Wednesday as they surveyed sodden fields and ruined crops.

Anyone living in rural areas of the Maritimes this summer knew trouble was brewing as day after rainy day in August and September forced farmers to give up on hay and straw harvests, and kept many Island potato farmers off swampy fields.

"It's a disaster in some areas," said potato grower Robert MacDonald of Wood Islands, P.E.I.

"Some farmers just don't know what they're going to do. They've lost a huge percentage of their crop and it's all because of mother nature and what we've been dealt this year. It's extremely disappointing."

MacDonald said it's harder to take the losses this year because the summer growing season looked promising in July. He said farmers were hoping for a bumper crop to make up for years of low prices and poor markets.

"It looked like one of those years where we could get caught up and pay off some bills," he said. "But the month of August took that right away from us."

Agriculture Canada inspectors already have checked out a number of flooded fields and farmers are hoping for federal assistance to help them cope with losses.

However, the Island potato harvest isn't a complete writeoff. Some farmers are less affected than others, and the quality of the spuds that survived is high.

"Our guys are having trouble getting into some of the fields because it's wet," said Bob Harding of the P.E.I. Potato Board. "But what they are digging is top notch."

In the livestock industry, officials said some farmers are considering selling off their herds early rather than trying to keep them through the fall and winter.

"Some producers are already starting to think about selling off their herds, some of their feeder cattle, a lot earlier than they might otherwise because they simply won't be able to keep them and they want to cut their losses while they can," said Patton MacDonald, general manager of the Nova Scotia Cattle Producers Association.

He said that in many areas of the Maritimes, the first cut of hay in the early summer provided no more than about 60 per cent of the hay farmers needed, and a second cut wasn't possible.

He said cereal and straw yields also are down for the year.

Organizations: P.E.I. Potato Board, Nova Scotia Cattle Producers Association

Geographic location: Maritime, Prince Edward Island, FREDERICTON Wood Islands Canada

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