Province hopes opening more Crown land for agriculture will help self-sufficiency

Published on February 16, 2017

Premier Dwight Ball speaks with the media Thursday morning after announcing the province is making 64,000 more hectares of Crown land available for agriculture development. On the right is Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods Minister Steve Crocker.

©Gary Kean/TC Media

Ian Richardson is not looking for any himself right now, but said making more Crown land available for agriculture is great news for the industry.

The proprietor of Larch Grove Farm in Cormack is also the chairman of the Dairy Farmers of Newfoundland and Labrador.

He was one of a couple of dozen people who went to Pure Holsteins dairy farm in Little Rapids for an announcement by the provincial government Thursday to make more Crown land available for agricultural development.

“It’s an exciting time for agriculture in Newfoundland,” said Richardson, who has been involved in farming for 15 years. “It’s an especially good opportunity to get some new entrants in, not only in dairy but all sectors of agriculture across the whole province.”

Thursday’s announcement is the government’s followup to its “The Way Forward” vision document, in which it committed to doubling Newfoundland and Labrador’s food production self-sufficiency by 2022.

The plan is to not only make twice as much Crown land available, but to make acquiring that land more efficient and quick.

The land won’t just be available to commercial ventures, but to anyone interested in farming and to municipalities that have unused Crown lands within their boundaries.

Larch Grove Farm is located within the town of Cormack. Richardson is looking forward to seeing how the province deals with his municipality about the public land in the town.

“It’s something we’re really interested in,” Richardson said of the possibility of expanding Larch Grove onto Crown land.

Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods Minister Steve Crocker said the province consulted with farmers, municipalities and other stakeholders who had a great deal of knowledge and interest in this initiative.

Thursday’s announcement was also welcomed by Merv Wiseman, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture.

“I am absolutely over the moon with this kind of announcement but, like anything, we now have to wait and see what the process is going to be,” he said.

Wiseman said he is confident the process has been improved, and is sure there will be plenty of interest in the land that will be made available.

In fact, he called it one of the most encouraging things he has seen in the industry in a long time.

“If this impediment to access to land is removed, then I think we’re going to see an explosion, I really do,” he said.

Wiseman added it is a myth that only a small percentage of Newfoundland and Labrador’s land base is arable. The leased Crown land left by Abitibi when it ceased producing pulp and paper contains a lot of great land for farming, Wiseman said.

“If a tree can grow on it, crops can grow on it,” he said.

Another positive aspect of the announcement, noted Wiseman, is the fact that farming most of the land being made available will help stimulate the economies in rural parts of the province.

By the numbers:

- “The Way Forward” vision document committed to increasing food self-sufficiency in Newfoundland and Labrador by at least 20 per cent by 2022.

- The Department of Municipal Affairs, Crown Lands Administration Division, receives about 80 applications annually for agricultural development.

- The Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods has identified 62 agricultural areas of interest totalling about 64,000 hectares to increase agricultural development.

- There are 19 of these areas currently available.

Source: Government of Newfoundland and Labrador