Sev­eral is­sues raised re­gard­ing fu­ture of Nova Sco­tia’s farm­land

Cape Breton Post - - news - BY ERIN POTTIE CAPE BRE­TON POST epot­tie@cb­

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.

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