The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture is working on a strategy to get more farmland into production around the province.

Federation president Chris van den Heuval, a fourth-generation dairy farmer in Port Hood, Cape Breton, said there's a significant amount of good agricultural land sitting idle in Nova Scotia.

He said some of it could be put back into production by means of a "land bank."

Chris van den Heuval, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture

The president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, Chris van den Heuval, says there's a significant amount of farmland sitting idle. (Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture)

"The idea of the land bank is for farmers, or people who own agricultural land, to be able to sell that land at fair market value," said van den Heuval.

Whoever then buys the land and controls the bank — be it the provincial government, farm loan board or a municipality — would in turn lease it back to farmers who want to expand operations, or to former Nova Scotia residents looking to move home.

Food producers in Inverness County are compiling a list of municipal properties that could be put into production, in part to attract immigrants. 

The other part of the federation's strategy, said van den Heuval, looks at issues surrounding foreign-owned farmland, which benefits from a "zero tax" concession, even if it's not in production.

"We want to see some sort of taxation issue resolved whereby foreign-owned agricultural land has to be utilized by an active Nova Scotia farmer in order for them to qualify for the tax benefits of that land," said van den Heuval.

He speculated the prospect of losing the tax break on foreign-owned, non-producing farmland might be a way of encouraging those owners to lease their land to someone who will farm it. 

Van den Heuval said farmers fought hard for the "zero tax" concession, and foreign owners should not benefit while letting their land sit idle.