How Green Are We?

Environmental Performance in the Agricultural Sector in Nova Scotia

This report card is the first step in on-going evaluation of agriculture’s interface with the environment in Nova Scotia. Its purpose is to evaluate the industry’s environmental stewardship agenda, set benchmarks, assess progress and communicate findings. In the absence of empirical data on which to base true indicators, surrogate indicators have been identified based on available data, against which the agricultural industry’s performance will be measured.

How green is Nova Scotia’s agricultural industry? Since 1995 the topic of environmental stewardship has been on the radar-screen at the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture (NSFA). Determined to understand progress to date, define indicators and set benchmarks, the NSFA commissioned novaknowledge to produce a report card.

novaknowledge and the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture released a report Sept. 16, 2009 assessing the environmental performance of the provincial agricultural sector. Since 1995, the industry has developed programs and initiatives to assess and address environmental risk. Determined to understand progress to date, the NSFA commissioned novaknowledge to produce a Report Card.

‘Environmental performance of the agricultural sector in Nova Scotia, 2009,’ finds that almost half of all registered farms (45.3%) operate under an Environmental Farm Plan (EFP); or 47.7% of total acreage. Nutrient management, soil preservation and tillage conservation practices have modest but continued uptake.

“A sense of stewardship and sustainability, as well as a desire to limit risk, compels family agri-businesses to adopt new practices to protect air, soil and water resources,” says NSFA President Richard Melvin. “The industry has led the way in Nova Scotia, and a cultural shift has occurred. Agri-business operators embrace sustainability. Now it’s regarded by most as part of everyday business management practices.”

The 3,800 census farms in NS hold 7.3% of the provincial land base, with almost 182,000 hectares cropped, and another 197,000 hectares of Christmas tree land, woodland and wetland.

Nova Scotia’s geography and geology offer varied and sometimes challenging environments, requiring innovation to safeguard natural resources. And while investing to reduce their environmental impact, farmers have also faced significant financial challenges.

“Fortunately, many positive environmental practices cost very little, it’s more of a change in attitude; and the federal and provincial governments have supported industry’s lead with targeted programs and financial support to help farmers put more costly environmental amendments in place,” said Richard Donald, Action Team Chair and Vice President, Research, Extension & Outreach, with the NS Agricultural College.

To view a full copy of the report, click here.