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Farmers divided over land use regulations

A controversial regulation in Kings County in Nova Scotia, that prohibits the development of farmland, is meeting with opposition, including some farmers.

April 22, 2009  By Halifax Chronicle Herald

April 21, 2009

by Gordon Delaney

Halifax, Nova Scotia -Peter Elderkin would like to sell some of his farmland and invest the money into his large apple farm near Wolfville.


Greg Mackin wants to build a seniors home on land he owns in Upper Canard, while Gerry Fulton has been battling for years to develop farmland he owns in Weston, north of Berwick.

Unfortunately for all three men, Kings County is the only region in Eastern Canada that has stringent land-use regulations that prevent development on valuable farmland.

Because of those regulations, all three have been turned down in their attempts to sell or develop their land.

And the issue is heating up again, as farmers are divided over whether to abolish the controversial regulations.

The issue came to a head at a recent meeting of the Kings County Federation of Agriculture.

A motion to abolish the regulations until a compensation program is in place for farmers was narrowly defeated 73-67, in a vote that split farmers almost right down the middle.

"We had very good discussion on both sides of the issue," said Brian Newcombe of Port Williams, a dairy, poultry and cash crop farmer.

"I think there is frustration from a lot of farmers," said Mr. Newcombe, who is also vice-president of the Kings County Federation of Agriculture.

"Thirty years ago there was talk of compensation for putting the restrictions on and nothing has really ever come forth," he said.

He favours a land trust system, where farmers are paid for their land to keep it in agricultural production instead of selling it for development.

"A land trust is one of the tools available to compensate for the restrictions that are on the land, and has the benefit of keeping farmland in production.

"Even though the motion wasn’t passed, hopefully it will send a message to municipal officials and their provincial counterparts of the level of frustration that is out there right now," he added.

At the same meeting, farmers passed a motion that the federation "vigorously" advocate to all levels of government "the urgent need to protect farmers and food security."

"The struggles we are facing are real," the federation said in a press release after the meeting. "The food system as it is today is not sustainable."

The federation called on citizens and government to work together "to build a local food system that benefits everyone."

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