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Heavy rains in the Maritimes bad for most farmers

Heavy rains that have soaked the Maritimes for much of August are likely to affect yields of vegetable crops including lettuce and potatoes.  Forecasts for drier weather to the end of the month are encouraging, although in some severe cases, the damage has been done. 

August 21, 2008  By Canadian Press/Halifax Chronicle-Herald

August 21, 2008

Things are looking up for Maritimers who have been plagued by too much rain.

Heavy downpours in early August left many vacationers hunkered indoors while the region’s farmers scrambled to save certain crops from a soggy demise.


But Environment Canada says the next two weeks should bring better weather to the region. Meteorologist Bob Robichaud said a low-pressure system that’s been hanging around for much of August is showing signs of changing.

"The second half of August should be better than the first," he said Wednesday in an interview from the weather centre in Dartmouth.

Joe King, produce manager at Eyking Brothers farm in Millville, said the dry weather in Cape Breton this week has been a bonus.

"As long as the rain stays away, we should be all right," he said. "We’ll persevere and stay at it."

King said the rain earlier this month damaged 45 hectares of lettuce.

"What we’ve lost in lettuce we can’t get back," he said. "Now I’ve got about 16 acres (6.4 hectares) of it out there."

King, who also grows turnip, cabbage and cauliflower, estimated that the damage to his crops will cost him about $350,000 in lost income.

"That’s just one farm," said King, whose farm is part of the Bras d’Or Producers Co-operative. "There’s five farms in this area and we’re all affected."

Representatives from Nova Scotia’s Agriculture Department toured the Millville area last week. A spokeswoman said the department is determining what programs can assist farmers in the region.

Robichaud said the Sydney area of Cape Breton has seen about 155 millimetres of rain this August. That’s four times the average amount.

Halifax has seen close to 200 millimetres so far this month — again, almost four times the usual amount.

Meanwhile, the Edmundston area of northern New Brunswick has received about 100 millimetres more than the average.

Jean Marie Pelletier, chairman of Potatoes New Brunswick, said storms and flooding in the northern region left some potato fields submerged.

"It’s just killed," said Pelletier. "They are a total loss, those fields."

Pelletier said the rain also caused a few cases of late blight, a disease that shows up after too much rain.

"We need to spray more fungicides, so it adds to the cost of production."

Chip Hunter operates a farm with his brother in what he calls the "potato belt" of New Brunswick, near the St. John River valley.

"It’s a big concern and the fields are not looking good," said Hunter, who also grows corn and other produce. "We’re certainly concerned about what effect the weather’s going to have. . . . It might be too late, I don’t know."

However, the rain hasn’t been bad news for every grower in the region.

Jamie Morrison of the New Brunswick Blueberry Agency said the rain has helped the province’s berry crop.

"The rain isn’t detrimental because it’s plumped up the berries," said Morrison. "The season’s looking good."

Mushroom growers are also reporting a bumper crop.


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