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GUEST OPINION: Land bank study results are credible

A farmer works a Prince Edward Island field in the spring of 2020. The proposal for a land bank would involve the province buying farmland for the purpose of keeping it in use for food cultivation. Nathan Rochford/The Guardian
A farmer works a Prince Edward Island field in the spring of 2020. The proposal for a land bank would involve the province buying farmland for the purpose of keeping it in use for food cultivation. - Nathan Rochford/The Guardian

I am writing this letter in response to the story in The Guardian (Land bank in limbo, Aug. 1). It seems that Transportation Minister Steven Myers did not get what he expected from the comprehensive report on land banking submitted by Dr. Kevin J. Arsenault. 

It is never prudent to have any pre-conceived notions of what such a report will or will not contain. From the information written by Guardian reporter Stu Neatby, I understand that Kevin Arsenault's report did in fact delve into the ways in which a land banking system could be established. In addition, the report went into detail about the absolute need to protect and improve Island soil which has become very depleted over the past number of years. Including recommendations needed to improve and protect Island soil seems to have struck a nerve with Transportation Minister Myers.

Kevin Arsenault certainly has the credibility to write the report, which he did and deserves and has earned credit for what he has written. 

In fact, he deserves an apology from the Transportation minister. Premier Dennis King apparently agreed initially that the report should contain information on the degradation of Island soil and ways to improve this situation. Now the Transportation minister is planning to have a "more formal staff person" write a more pleasing report at the cost of an additional $50,000. One cannot help but wonder why this staff person was not asked to submit a report on land banking in the first place. The department was, in fact, very fortunate to have a person of Kevin Arsenault's calibre and research capabilities to compile the report.

The Arsenault report recommended ways in which young farmers would be able to procure land to get started and other farm families would be able to gain access to additional land instead of land being amassed by large corporations and industrial agriculture corporations, which is happening today. Protecting farm land for farm families who live on the farm and carefully tend the soil is more in line with the thinking of former premier J. Angus MacLean and attorney general Horace Carver many years ago.

I would submit to Mr. Myers that nothing is a mistake as long as it is corrected. The report is extremely well researched and the protection of Island soil is so very important. This is not about what Transportation Minister Steven Myers wants — it is all about what Island farm families and the soil itself needs. Please get on with the job of establishing a farm land banking system for P.E.I.

Urban Laughlin is a retired dairy farmer in Sherbrooke, P.E.I. 

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