Ag show plan causes row

Board members with the Cayman Islands Agricultural Society clashed with their president at a meeting Tuesday over safety concerns and other issues surrounding holding a scaled back agricultural show next month.

A board meeting has been called tonight to discuss the matter further as well as the actions of its president.

The society cancelled its traditional Agricultural Show held annually on Ash Wednesday because of extensive damage by Hurricane Ivan on the farming and agricultural community.

However, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture decided to go forward with an Agricultural Day after holding a meeting last week with farmers and exhibitors of the Agricultural Show.

Those attending – including agricultural society president Mr. Rudy Myles – supported a smaller, non-competitive event that would feature displays of produce, trees and plants along with crafts and entertainment. The government is now in the process of cleaning and repairing the agricultural grounds and pavilion.

But society past president and former agriculture minister John B. McLean Sr., along with other board members, was adamant the pavilion facilities could not be restored to proper safety standards in time for the 9 February event.

‘Time does not permit for it to be put back the way it is supposed to be,’ he said. ‘Safety is our main concern. The responsibility ends with the society.’

He questioned holding the event at all and took the president to task for supporting it without any directive from the board.

‘The society is the body that has always had the show,’ said Mr. McLean. ‘The board gave no (directive) to meet with the ministry or department . . . the farming community has been devastated by the storm. There is nothing to show.’

Mr. Myles, who called Tuesday’s general meeting without board consent, said the Ash Wednesday event is not the traditional agricultural show but is designed to help bring the community together. Its goal is to foster the restoration process by helping people revitalize their properties, promote fellowship and show support for the agricultural sector.

‘The ministry wants to demonstrate some sense of recovery, to show that people are making some progress.’

Dr. Alfred Benjamin, Chief Agricultural and Veterinary Officer, said the government is undertaking every effort to ensure the safety of the public.

He added that it’s important to continue community traditions such as the agricultural show in some form as the country continues to rebuild.

‘The ministry believes it’s good for the nation’s psyche.’