The province announced last Thursday that it is giving nearly $5 million dollars to help with the storage and shipping of potatoes grown for the french fry market.

According to a CBC article [“P.E.I. announces $4.7M to tackle potato surplus related to COVID-19 market conditions”] Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Bloyce Thompson said, “This will help to ensure no product is lost so that farmers are in good position for the 2020 growing season.”
How is the money going to do that? Who is getting that $ 4.7 million? What will be deemed allowable expenses for the money?
There’s no mention on the Department website of any program attached to this 4.7 million that I can see, nor any application process for farmers. Nor is there any mention of how farmers might access some of that money in a pamphlet prepared for Covid-19 affected farmers titled: Financial Relief Measures Guide.
I surmised that the money would go to processing growers who are now being asked to store potatoes for a much longer period of time as they attempt to find other markets – something Robert Irving recently informed them they’d have to do – but I could find no information on how that $4.7 million is to be rolled out, or in what direction it will be heading when the rolling starts.
My assumption was that it would go to farmers. It’s farmers afteralll who are now burdened with the risks and imminent financial losses with remaining potatoes in storage that Irving was supposed to process into drys. Farmer’s expenses needing to be covered to divert sales would also include marketing work and expenses finding those new buyers, and of course, shipping.
Regardless of what happens next with their potatoes, there will undoubtedly be additional costs to farmers, and significantly-lower prices for whatever potatoes PEI potato farmers are, in the end, able to sell in other markets, which may not be many, given this late date in the season.
Minister Thompson said that the $4.7 “Will help resolve the substantial market issues to ensure these potatoes will now be a source of safe, quality food for our food security.”
How is the money going to do that? Who is going to receive it? How is it going to be allocated? On what will applications rely by way of a core criteria for being entitled to access those funds? Or is it just a cheque made out to Robert Irving?

Asking for a Friend

I received information in a phone call this morning coming from a processing grower who shall remain anonymous. That farmer claims the first time he heard he’d have to find additional markets was when Robert Irving told the media. This guy says the entire $4.7 million amount is apparently going to Robert Irving.
I’m hoping the Green Party Leader, Peter Bevan-Baker, might ask some questions about this money. And about the importation of infected beehives. And why it’s already a year and the promised “name search” is not yet on the Business Registry, and of course, why he is saying nothing about the ongoing cover-up of the e-gaming scandal, the Brendal Farms Irving land deal, or so many other important and timely issues.
I have my suspicions that the processing farmer’s story that I heard this morning is probably correct. But Islanders have a right to hear the details from Minister Bloyce Thompson, especially with no questions coming from the opposition parties. Until Bevan-Baker’s chronic laryingitis heals and he regains his voice, it looks likes Islanders are going to have to raise these questions themselves.
Is the $4.7 million simply a gift to Robert Irving in response to his unfounded fears and the false sense of “need” he created with his recent media story about french fry sales declines and how he had informed (sic) his processing contract growers they should look for alternative markets? This particular farmer said the first he heard about having to do that was when he heard the news report from Robert Irving on the radio.
Robert Irving doesn’t need financial assistance from you or me. He is a billionaire. He has some gall if he’s actually going to take $5 million out of our coffers when we’re spending like drunken sailors to stay alive, with no idea how we’ll ever pay it all back. A recent Order in Executive Council was for the issue of nearly a BILLION dollars!
If Robert Irving is getting that $4.7 million….then shame on the King Government! If the response is that Irving has filled their freezers and won’t start production without more freezing capacity, than BUY THE FREEZERS BUT RETAIN OWNERSHIP OF THEM. Or they could just put them in the Poole’s Corner storage facility that the taxpayer’s built for the Irving Empire.
Child Praying

Premier King and Minister Thompson need to explain exactly how this money is going to be spent, who will receive it, and what justifies giving it to Irving – if that is in fact the plan.

Please God, don’t let it be that the King Government decided we’d all chip in and buy Mr. Irving some more assets for his company.