Prov­ince opens land for farm­ing

Govern­ment hopes pro­vid­ing more Crown land will im­prove food self-suf­fi­ciency

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL -

Farm­ers and agri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers will have al­most dou­ble the amount of land avail­able to them with ad­di­tional Crown lands for agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, the prov­ince has an­nounced.

The Depart­ment of Fish­eries, Forestry and Agri­foods iden­ti­fied 62 agri­cul­ture ar­eas of in­ter­est to­talling about 64,000 hectares to in­crease agri­cul­ture de­vel­op­ment, an in­crease over the 19 ar­eas cur­rently avail­able.

Premier Dwight Ball and Fish­eries, Forestry and Agri­foods Min­is­ter Steve Crocker made the an­nounce­ment at Pure Hol­steins in Lit­tle Rapids on Feb. 16.

Ian Richard­son is not look­ing for any him­self right now, but said mak­ing more Crown land avail­able for agri­cul­ture is great news for the in­dus­try.

The pro­pri­etor of Larch Grove Farm in Cor­mack is also the chair­man of the Dairy Farm­ers of New­found­land and Labrador.

He was one of a cou­ple of dozen peo­ple who went to Pure Hol­steins dairy farm in Lit­tle Rapids for the an­nounce­ment by the pro­vin­cial govern­ment.

“It’s an ex­cit­ing time for agri­cul­ture in New­found­land,” said Richard­son, who has been in­volved in farm­ing for 15 years. “It’s an es­pe­cially good op­por­tu­nity to get some new en­trants in, not only in dairy, but all sec­tors of agri­cul­ture across the whole prov­ince.”

The an­nounce­ment is the govern­ment’s fol­lowup to its “The Way For­ward” vi­sion doc­u­ment, in which it com­mit­ted to dou­bling New­found­land and Labrador’s food pro­duc­tion self-suf­fi­ciency by 2022.

The plan is to not only make twice as much Crown land avail­able, but to make ac­quir­ing that land more ef­fi­cient and quick.

The land won’t just be avail­able to com­mer­cial ven­tures, but to any­one in­ter­ested in farm­ing and to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that have un­used Crown lands within their bound­aries.

Larch Grove Farm is lo­cated within the town of Cor­mack. Richard­son is look­ing for­ward to see­ing how the prov­ince deals with his mu­nic­i­pal­ity about the pub­lic land in the town.

“It’s some­thing we’re really in­ter­ested in,” Richard­son said of the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­pand­ing Larch Grove onto Crown land.

Fish­eries, Forestry and Agri­foods Min­is­ter Steve Crocker said the prov­ince con­sulted with farm­ers, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and other stake­hold­ers who had a great deal of knowl­edge and in­ter­est in this ini­tia­tive.

The an­nounce­ment was also wel­comed by Merv Wise­man, pres­i­dent of the New­found­land and Labrador Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture.

“I am ab­so­lutely over the moon with this kind of an­nounce­ment but, like any­thing, we now have to wait and see what the process is go­ing to be,” he said.

Wise­man said he is con­fi­dent the process has been im­proved, and is sure there will be plenty of in­ter­est in the land that will be made avail­able.

In fact, he called it one of the most en­cour­ag­ing things he has seen in the in­dus­try in a long time.

“If this im­ped­i­ment to ac­cess to land is re­moved, then I think we’re go­ing to see an ex­plo­sion, I really do,” he said.

Wise­man added it is a myth that only a small per­cent­age of New­found­land and Labrador’s land base is arable. The leased Crown land left by Abitibi when it ceased pro­duc­ing pulp and pa­per con­tains a lot of great land for farm­ing, Wise­man said.

“If a tree can grow on it, crops can grow on it,” he said.

An­other pos­i­tive as­pect of the an­nounce­ment, noted Wise­man, is the fact that farm­ing most of the land be­ing made avail­able will help stim­u­late the economies in ru­ral parts of the prov­ince.

GARY KEAN/TC ME­DIA

Premier Dwight Ball speaks with the me­dia Feb. 16 af­ter an­nounc­ing the prov­ince is mak­ing 64,000 more hectares of Crown land avail­able for agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment. At the right is Fish­eries, Forestry and Agri­foods Min­is­ter Steve Crocker.

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