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Farmers: Govt ‘trying to kill what little is left’

Two-day alternative agricultural exhibition to be held at Wadson’s Farm on Friday and Saturday

By Ceola Wilson

The Bermuda Farmers Association announced it would boycott the 75th Agricultural Exhibition next week.

Spokesman Tom Wadson said the decision was taken following years of “unnecessary bureaucratic red tape” orchestrated by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. And he insisted that new regulations threaten to take local crop farmers out of business.

A letter from the Ministry to HMS Customs calling for all imported plant seeds to be intercepted was the last straw, he said.

“They want to have an exhibition then why don’t they support agriculture and the people behind it,” said Mr Wadson.

“Every week we’re jumping through new hoops. Anybody who has imported plant material in Bermuda has had enough; we’re not doing it anymore because of ridiculous rules.

“We’re not getting treated as the stakeholders and the powers that be have the balls to call it an Agricultural Exhibition while inadvertently, they’re trying to kill what little is left of Bermuda’s agricultural business.”

Government issued a press release insisting that Mr Wadson had “failed to advise the public of a number of important facts”.

“In particular, he did not acknowledge that the request to intercept imported seeds was based on information that seeds had been treated with pesticides that could be harmful to agriculture in Bermuda,” a spokeswoman said. “He failed to acknowledge that the Bermuda Farmers Association, including Mr Wadson, had met with the Minister responsible for the Environment on March 27, 2013 to discuss this very issue and other concerns of the Association.

“Mr Wadson failed to mention that as a result of that meeting the Government agreed to rescind that letter until further consultation had taken place on the matter. The Association and the Minister discussed a number of other issues and agreed a plan to address those issues.”

But Mr Wadson was adamant the letter was not rescinded and that as far as he was aware, imported seeds were still being intercepted.

“We seem to have civil servants who go off and do whatever they like, whenever they like at our expense and at the expense of the taxpayer,” he said.

“The seeds are still being intercepted, and if it has been rescinded no one has bothered to tell the Customs officers. It would appear to me that somebody in Government is back pedalling.

“And it’s blatantly obvious we have too many experts with too many tails wagging the dog who continue to push the turbulence button whenever they like.

“I’ve invested every dime I have to grow food in a country that cannot feed itself and we as farmers are fed up with this nonsense.

“The boycott stands and we won’t be participating period. We won’t be submitting entries, we won’t be judging entries and we plan to put all our entries on display in our own show.”

That show will be held at Wadson’s Farm in Southampton over a two-day period beginning Friday.

Meanwhile, more than 3,000 participants have registered for this year’s show which starts on April 18.

“Preparations are nearing completion to make this another successful, dynamic show that has proven to be one of the most popular events on the Bermudian calendar,” explained Department of Parks Exhibition planner Georgette Caines.

The theme for this year’s show is: ‘75 years of Growing our Environment to Protect our Heritage — Come Grow With Us.’

“It is through this theme that the show intends to promote the importance of protecting our heritage through agricultural and horticultural methods,” Ms Caines explained. “To this end, many of the exhibits and displays reflect this message; including our ‘Agro Zone’ which will allow children to learn about the sustainability of growing plants for food.

“For us to sustain ourselves we have to learn how to grow what we eat and do it in a way that is mindful of the environment and our eco-footprint.”

In the Main Ring, there will be several equestrian events over the three days, as well as a goat competition, awards presentations and the opening and closing ceremonies.

The Lower Entertainment Ring will feature performances by school groups, puppet shows, music schools, dance troupes, performing artists, and bands.

There will also be a goat-milking display, traditional games such as hula hoops, rowing, marbles, tossing bean bags and go-karts.

Said Environment Minister Sylvan Richards: “I am very much looking forward to this year’s Agricultural Exhibition.

“I encourage everyone in Bermuda to come by and see all the fabulous exhibits on display and learn new things about Bermuda’s culture and environment.

“Children can see animals that they rarely see in their everyday lives, the public are challenged to think about how they live in harmony with nature, charities are provided with an opportunity to raise funds for their causes, local entertainers are given a stage to showcase their talent, and the entire Bermudian community moves in synchronicity with each other.

“These reflect the true purpose and value of the Bermuda Agricultural Exhibition.”

The grounds are open daily from 8am to 6pm and exhibition houses are open from 9am to 6pm.

Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children under 16 years, $5 for seniors and free for children under five years of age.

Visit www.bdaexhibition.bm for more information and to see this year’s schedule.

Local farmer Tom Wadson is boycotting the Annual Exhibition. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published April 13, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 12, 2013 at 9:06 pm)

Farmers: Govt ‘trying to kill what little is left’

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