TRURO - Farmers, municipalities and the province will be able to better protect agricultural land thanks to new information and guidance available to them.
Almost 30 recommendations are included in a new report on agricultural land that would help protect land from development and to preserve it for the future.
"Taking good care of our land is a priority for government, and we are committed to helping municipalities and the agriculture industry do the same," said Agriculture Minister John MacDonell. "Farmers and others who rely on the land to help them earn a living know how important it is to protect and enhance it so it's available now and for generations to come."
The report identifies roles for the province, municipalities and the agriculture industry to protect and preserve land. It recommends a mix of regulations, bylaws, codes, policies, guidelines, incentives and education.
- Setting clearly defined land-use planning criteria.
- Considering more effective policies and other tools that help make agriculture businesses profitable.
- Building on initiatives that raise Nova Scotians' awareness of and support for agriculture.
- Clarifying roles and evaluating guidelines for soil erosion and removing topsoil.
- Minimizing conflicts between agriculture landowners and neighbours through municipal planning and raising awareness of industry needs.
Also, under the Municipal Government Act, there are five statements of provincial interest that must be considered in comprehensive municipal planning. Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations will soon be seeking input from municipalities to improve the statement for agriculture.
In Nova Scotia, there are about 3,900 farms employing about 5,200 people. In 2011, the industry generated $539.7 million in farm cash receipts and $229 million in international exports.
"The protection of quality agricultural land is important not only to promote local food production, but as an economic driver for rural Nova Scotia," said Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities (UNSM) president Jim Smith.
The framework recommends the agriculture industry continue working to raise awareness of its economic and community contributions, and to educate members on best practices to keep soil productive.
A working group with representatives from the departments of Agriculture, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and Natural Resources developed the report, Protecting and Preserving Agricultural Land in Nova Scotia, which is available at www.gov.ns.ca/agri.