Drought hitting Maritime farms hard, especially P.E.I. potato growers
NORBORO, P.E.I. -- Maritime farmers are starting to call this summer's lack of rain "disastrous".
Famous for its potatoes, Prince Edward Island produces over a million kilograms of spuds every year, but this year is different.
Over the last three months, some areas of P.E.I. have only received 15 per cent of its usual rainfall. Estimates suggest the harvest will be down 25 per cent -- at a minimum.
"Put that in perspective," said Greg Donald, the general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board. "For all the potato farmers in P.E.I., that would be more than a $50 million dollar loss."
But there's not much they can do to save their season.
Agricultural irrigation was outlawed on Prince Edward Island in 2002. It’s the only province in the country where farmers aren’t allowed to water their crops.
"You’re able to irrigate golf courses here in the province of Prince Edward Island, you can get deep water wells, high capacity wells for car washes, truck washes, things of that nature but if you’re growing food, you’re not allowed," said Richard Godfrey the executive director of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.
If crops aren’t growing, neither is the hay that’s needed to feed livestock through the winter.
"Typically, in the dairy industry, you look at least two cuts of hay, the second cut has not been great," Godfrey said.
For some farmers in New Brunswick it's a different story depending on the crop.
Robert Bourgeois has trained his apple trees to be resilient in the face of extreme dry spells, as a result he’s in line for his best crop ever.
"We made a decision about 20 years ago that we were going to high density orchards and we’re not going to babysit the trees," said Bourgeois, an apple farmer from Memramcook, N.B."We’re going to plant the trees and they’re going to have to survive without water because I want the roots to go deeper."
That's something that's not possible for vegetable crops as farmers can only look to the skies and hope for rain to try to salvage their season.
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King met with farmers Thursday to discuss agricultural irrigation. Farmers are hopeful it's a step toward reversing the moratorium.