Cuts force federal farm to close

Wednesday, April 18 2012

April 18, 2012

Alan Cochrane, Times & Transcript staff

The impending closure of the Hervé J. Michaud Experimental Farm in Bouctouche by the federal
government will not only mean a loss of 16 jobs in Kent County, but also a blow to local fruit and vegetable producers who are already having trouble competing with imports from the U.S., Beauséjour Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc said yesterday. ~ “It’s regrettable that 16 jobs will be lost in Kent County, including people who have doctorates in agricultural research,” LeBlanc said. “But it is a double shot of unfairness as this facility was working on research into crops like raspberries, strawberries, apples and vegetable production, with organic ways to help them grow and early frost protection.”

The experimental farm in Bouctouche was opened in 1982 and operated as a research site for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. It was named for Hervé J. Michaud, a farmer and salesman who served as a Liberal MP in Kent County from 1953 to 1962, and as a senator from 1968 until his death in 1978. It is being closed as part of wide-ranging cost cuts by the federal government. LeBlanc noted that a similar operation in Fredericton is not being cut.

Even though it was funded by Ottawa, Leblanc said the farm formed partnerships with local growers, who contribute financially to research that is directly applicable to their farms. He said local farms that produce strawberries are already having trouble competing with imports from the U.S. that are available on local grocery store shelves. This will have both short term and long-term impacts on local producers,” LeBlanc said.

Kent Coates, the president of the Really Local Harvest Co-operative, is urging federal agriculture
minister Gerry Ritz to reverse the decision to close the Bouctouche experimental farm. In a letter to the minister, a copy of which was supplied to the Times& Transcript yesterday, Coates said the experimental farm serves an important function and its closure will be a blow to the local agriculture and agri-food industries. “The news on Thursday that the Canadian government has decided to close the Hervé J. Michaud Experimental Farm in Bouctouche came as a great blow to our farmers and will have a significant negative impact on the agri-food industry in Atlantic Canada and throughout the country,” Coates said in the letter.

“While we recognize that the fiscal environment is challenging, we believe that strategic investment in our agriculture is a wise investment for our communities, for our food and for our country’s economy The Hervé J. Michaud Experimental Farm assists local as well as all Canadian producers to become industry leaders.” The Really Local Harvest Co-operative consists of about 30 farms in southeastern New Brunswick, with a mandate to promote locally-grown products and the development of sustainable agriculture. Members of the co-operative produce greenhouse products, vegetables, fruit, cheese and livestock. They also operate the Dieppe market, where locally grown products are sold.

A spokesman for Agriculture Canada said yesterday that the department is finding efficiencies by
consolidating some of its research farms across Canada. However, it will retain a solid network of sci-entists and technicians working in more than 50 research centres, labs, farms and outreach offices across the country ‘Agriculture Canada will be operating fewer facilities and refocusing on critical science activities,” the department said in an e-mail to the Times & Transcript. ‘Agriculture Canada is transforming how research is done, strengthening research partnerships and making sure we’re doing the right research that will benefit industry for the long term.”

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