New rules for mink farms
The Nova Scotia government has tabled a new law it hopes will bring an end to complaints about the province's 80 mink farms.
Agriculture Minister John MacDonell introduced a bill in the legislature Thursday that will force mink farmers to comply with tougher rules to make sure they have proper plans to dispose of waste and safeguard waterways.
New operations will also have to get government approval before opening.
MacDonell said that is a major change to what is happening now.
"The Department of Agriculture really only got involved once the farm was just on the verge, like you had your buildings, you had your mink in the cages. And so they called the department for a permit to operate and then, if we thought conditions were humane for the mink, basically, we would grant that permit," MacDonell said.
"Now before you ever break ground, build a building, do anything you have to get a permit from us or approval from us before you even would start."
Mink farmers helped the government draft the new law, he said, and that's an indication the industry is eager to comply.
Mink farmer Earl Prime is president of the Nova Scotia Mink Breeders' Association.
"It boosts our economy tremendously. It gives lots of jobs and we're out to encourage young farmers that want to get into the business and that's why we want this legislation put in place so we can tell them how they have to do it," Prime said.
"And we have many young farmers that want to get into the business."
Prime said although complying with the new rules will cost farmers, they are ready to shoulder that cost.
Existing operations will have three years to make the necessary changes to meet the new requirements.
The act also gives the Department of Agriculture inspection and enforcement authority.
About half of the mink farms in Canada are in Nova Scotia. The number of animals at those farms has tripled over the past 10 years, to about one million. Eighty-five per cent of the population is raised in Digby County.
Last August, a proposal for a mink farm at Sloans Lake raised the ire of residents who suspected that existing ranches in Digby County were responsible for large blue-green algae blooms in a local river system.
The Nova Scotia mink industry has seen a steady climb in profit in recent years with export sales exceeding $65 million in 2008 and about $80 million last year, according to the agriculture department.