Several issues raised regarding future of Nova Scotia’s farmland
MEMBERTOU — Is Nova Scotia running out of agricultural lands?
That was the question posed to residents of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality during the third of seven public meetings scheduled throughout the province.
Members of the agricultural land review committee made a short presentation to about 40 people at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre Thursday, followed by a public forum that included the opinions of several Cape Breton farmers.
Concerns raised during the session included the inability to buy local food at grocery stores, agricultural zoning issues and a desire to return to the tradition of small family based farms.
Cape Breton University biology professor Thomas Bouman said he hopes the consultations, which will lead to a final report, not only reach the ears of the province’s agricultural minister, but departmental officials in areas of energy and forestry as well.
He’s concerned the province’s biomass project to expand its renewable energy sources will result in the cutting of traditional forests for hardwood on Crown lands.
Bouman said the province should create a policy to encourage small landowners to grow a crop for Nova Scotia, while also ban- ning cutting of traditional forests.
A report from the committee, a provincially appointed body used to gather information regarding how Nova Scotians feel about agricultural production, is expected in the spring.
Committee chair Richard Williams said a small percentage of Nova Scotia’s farm lands are being used for agricultural purposes.
He said many variables are threatening the future use of agricultural lands such as urban development and farm abandonment. Under current economic conditions, farmers often quit the business due to high investment and low returns. Many farmers in the province are also aging, with statistics indicating the majority of people working in the sector are aged 55 and above.
Nova Scotia currently has 1.6 million hectares of agricultural lands, subdivided into classes of land quality and less than 0.2 million of those hectares are used for agricultural production.
“We’re getting our food from some place,” added Williams. “But not from here.”
Williams said in order to feed Nova Scotia’s current population, a million hectares of farm land is needed.
He said it’s a question of whether or not Nova Scotia wants to make the investment, noting the cost to recover these lands could be between $3.2 and $6.4 billion.