Nova Scotia will spend $1 million to nearly double grape growing in an effort to boost the province's wine industry.
"We're putting in a small amount of public money to leverage a lot of private sector money," said Premier Stephen McNeil, who announced the Vineyard Development and Expansion Program Tuesday at the Avondale Sky Winery in Newport Landing, N.S.
The program will pay each grower up to $6,550 per acre to cover land clearing, tile drainage, plant material, stakes and contracted labour.
Stewart Creaser of Avondale Sky Winery said it costs between $15,000 to $30,000 per acre to get into production. He said each acre creates 1.1 jobs.
"$6,500 per job, I'd say that's a good investment," Creaser said.
"I would argue it would be hard to find a more sustainable and wise investment a government can make."
The program is for growers with a minimum of five acres (two hectares) of grapes planted.
There are 20 wineries in Nova Scotia and 11 applications have already been submitted to the Department of Agriculture.
A taste for Nova Scotia wine
New entrants are also eligible for funding. They must submit a plan by 2018, demonstrating how they will reach the target. They are also required to have a contract with an existing winery.
The program was welcomed by Gerry McConnell, founder of Nova Scotia's most acclaimed winery, Benjamin Bridge, which makes the province's iconic Nova 7 effervescent wine.
"This is the first time that any government since I've been in the wine industry — and that's 1999 — has done anything of substance to assist the grape growers and the wine industry of Nova Scotia," McConnell said.
He says he's put millions of dollars into building his winery.
"That kind of assistance is welcomed after 15 years of never looking, never going to government ... this is a welcome step."
McNeil said the goal is to nearly double grape acreage by 2020. Currently, 632 acres (256 hectares) are under cultivation.
"Nova Scotians have an affinity for this sector," McNeil said.
"This is new. It's exciting. We are repurposing agricultural land."
The government said Nova Scotia wineries produce 1.8 million litres of wine annually with sales of $15.4 million in 2014.
About 100,000 people visited provincial wineries last year.
Earlier this fall, the province extended crop insurance to include grape growers. The insurance helps farmers whose vines have been harmed by severe weather.