A P.E.I. farmer who raises hens was among several people who appeared in front of an agriculture committee hearing Tuesday to express concerns about the future of their businesses.

Raymond Loo told the committee that he is currently allowed to raise up to 299 laying hens in his backyard, for eggs that he sells at his stall at the Charlottetown Farmers Market.

Loo said the P.E.I. Egg Commodity Marketing Board wants to reduce backyard flocks to 49 hens, which would be another hit to his bottom line.

"You have to do all the work the same for 49 that you would've for 299," he said.

Although selling the eggs is not a lucrative business, Loo said every bit helps.

"A few farmers can make some money through this time of year."

Loo was among several farmers who told the committee that things are changing for the worse on P.E.I.'s farms.

Import competition tough

Allan Glover, who sells beef and other farm products directly to consumers, said it's tough to compete against other imported products in a local market.

"I also don't want to be going to the mailbox to get a subsidy cheque," he said. "I think we need an extensive program to help us build a proper alliance with the consumers of this province.

"I think the government could help us build these alliances."

The agriculture committee heard a similar message from members of the Young Farmers of Prince Edward Island.

"We need to hit a niche market," said Jeremy Stead. "We need to hit the local consumer."

Mariah Smith, another member of Young Farmers, said it was difficult to compete with large supermarket chains.

"How can you get Galen Weston to buy your product?" she asked, referring to the executive chairman of Loblaw Companies Ltd.

"He can go somewhere else and buy it cheaper. He's a businessman."