According to the “Is Nova Scotia Running Out of Agriculture Land” discussion paper by the Agriculture Land Review Committee, Nova Scotia has a little over 29% (1.57 million hectares) of its land classed as Agriculture. Though classed as Agriculture, some of this land is not being used for Agriculture and is growing in with weeds, brush and trees. Increasing the amount of agricultural land under production in the province will have a significant impact on the economy of Nova Scotia including job creation, farm gate sales and economic spinoff.
Developing Agricultural Land
It takes significant time, money and resources to bring former and new agriculture land into production, which are difficult to come by when starting a farm or expanding existing operations. Increased support for land development and preparation must be a priority of the government.
One of the ways to address agriculture land shortages is to protect current agriculture land by implementing a land bank program. To be effective, an agricultural land bank program must compensate farmers for removing development rights from their farm land. As part of the broader picture, an agricultural land bank would help offset the current deficit of agricultural land. A land bank would provide access to agriculture land to new farmers and farmers expanding their farm operations without tying up capital.
The existing regulations in place under the Community Easements Act already allow for easements to be placed on land for agriculture use.
The Federation’s policy regarding the protection of agricultural land suggests government intervention must go well beyond simply placing restrictions on the use of agricultural land. Incentives to encourage private land owners to continue farming and voluntarily place an agricultural easement on their farm land would be the least invasive and most receptive means of increasing the amount of private farm land in the province.
Zero taxation on farm land
The zero taxation policy on farm land was developed so that farmers in rural and urban settings would have an equalized tax burden, land tax would be higher in more desirable urban or industrial settings. This has been a benefit to farmers but also to owners of farm land that do not farm. In some cases this has the unintended consequence of a landowner not allowing a farmer to use the land since there is no incentive; they receive the zero tax benefit anyway.
The Province of Nova Scotia has 1.3 million hectares of Crown Land. Much of this crown land in located in rural areas, close to farmers. A land deficit plan should include the use of underutilized Crown Land for agricultural purposes.
Policy Statement: It shall be the policy of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture to lobby the Nova Scotia government to implement a well‐rounded program to protect agricultural land. A program would include a land bank system along with zero taxation on land owned by a registered farm or land actively maintained as farmland, access to Crown Land and support for those who are bringing former and new agriculture land into production. The Federation will also lobby to include an agriculture land protection goal in the next Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperities Act.