Government Leads on Agricultural Land Use

first_imgFarming has been a good business for many generations, despite the ups and downs the sectors and farmers have had to endure along the way. Farmland is critical for our food system, so being able to access goods from a locally supplied industry is a privilege not to be taken for granted. We are fortunate to have quality farmland so that we may grow food here to feed our families, as well as to export as market and free trade allows. The question as to whether or not we should be doing more to protect agricultural land is an issue the government of Nova Scotia takes seriously as it strives to create good jobs and grow the economy especially in our resource sectors. Agricultural land is a limited resource. Every year, we lose some agricultural land to housing and other forms of development, both urban and suburban. As pressure to develop land for non-agricultural purposes increases, people continue to ask questions about the future of agricultural lands. What’s government’s role in protecting our agricultural resources? Should we let this land be used for commercial development? Should preservation be the responsibility of our local governments or the provincial government? What will this mean for Nova Scotia’s farmers? The answers to those questions are not easy ones, as they have far reaching implications to just about everyone in the province. It is not hard to see how getting more involved in how agricultural land is to be used in the future is a complicated issue. Government is not shying away from the questions. This government has been working to identify how to best move forward so that we can provide genuine leadership on this issue and continue to make life better for families in our communities. Within months of becoming Minister of Agriculture I took action on this issue. Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Minister Ramona Jennex and I appointed an independent land review committee to advise this government on issues surrounding agricultural land preservation. The Nova Scotia Agricultural Land Review Committee was commissioned to conduct a review of agricultural land preservation issues in the fall of 2009. Its mandate is to identify the steps to be taken and recommend processes to put in place regarding the preservation of agricultural land for the benefit of all Nova Scotians. A major part of the review process includes seeking public input and then to prepare a report so that the province is well informed in making decisions that would result in changes to existing legislation policies and programs, or that might affect the roles of municipalities and non-government organizations in the preservation of agricultural land. The provincial government has already taken a number of steps to help preserve agricultural land. Farmland for example, is exempt from municipal taxation – an incentive to keep land in production. The Department of Agriculture also has a number of programs in place to make farming more viable and help attract new farmers to the industry. Public input obtained so far overwhelmingly supports the protection of farmland but emphasizes that costs associated with that protection cannot be borne by farmers alone. The Nova Scotia Agricultural Land Review Committee public consultation process held this year drew 549 Nova Scotians to 12 meetings and 120 written submissions on preserving agricultural farmland, most of whom point to a desire for the province to take measures to further protect the land. We expect to have a copy of the committee’s report by mid-July. As is the case, with issues that involve many interested parties, there are no easy answers or quick solutions. We will continue to work with them to better understand the overall value of agricultural land to our communities, and to understand all the implications in which solutions might have on Nova Scotians. -30-last_img