NAPPAN - The former chair of the Atlantic Farmers Council is concerned with a proposed government policy on wetlands, saying not enough consultation has been completed.
"There hasn't been enough consultation with farmers and we are concerned with the impact this could have on farmers who are already struggling to hold on," Nappan dairy farmer Doug Bacon said. "We're asking that agricultural lands be grandfathered."
Bacon, who is also a member of the Nova Scotia Marshlands Commission, said the Federation of Agriculture has made its feelings known on the subject, but has not heard from the province on the proposed policy, when it will be implemented and how it will impact those farmers who have wetlands on their properties.
He feels government needs to slow down to give farmers a chance to provide their input. He also fears many farmers don't yet know how they will be impacted.
"You don't realize it until you start looking around the farm. In our little farm here, there are probably 10 to 12 areas that could be considered wetlands. I've taken a bunch of photos of these areas and sent them in asking if they'd be considered wetlands, but I've received nothing in replay as of yet," said Bacon.
Farmers are not against a wetlands policy being put in place because they too are strong supporters of the environment, Bacon said, but they are concerned with the cost associated with protecting wetlands on their properties especially if they have to take remedial steps such as fencing them off from livestock.
Bacon said farmers want the Environment Department to talk to their counterparts in Agriculture and the farming community before moving forward.
"The way things are going now is there's a feeling this is moving along too fast," Bacon said. "There are a lot of questions out there that we haven't received answers to. For instance, we've been told that a wetland could be considered any piece of land that you have to wear boots on. That's a bit of an exaggeration for agricultural purposes."
The draft wetlands policy was developed in response to the 2007 Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act mandate that government establish a policy to prevent the net loss of wetlands by the end of this year.
The policy describes a comprehensive approach government can use to ensure the benefits wetlands provide are maintained and it establishes specific goals and objectives intended to prevent the loss of these wetlands.
Bacon said a lot of wetlands conservation is taking place in the province through Ducks Unlimited and he stressed that many farmers are willing partners in this process. He fears what the reaction could be if this is legislated.
Liberal agriculture critic Leo Glavine wants the province to have more consultations with farmers before implementing the new policy.
"Without a doubt a new policy is needed and we are pleased that government is taking this aspect of the environment seriously, but we cannot rush to meet a deadline in legislation," said Glavine.
Glavine said almost every farm in Nova Scotia has a low-lying wetland area for proper drainage and this could be severely impacted by a new policy.