PCs, NDP, Greens promise to create land bank to preserve Island farming industry
'There's no shortage of buyers now. That's not the issue,' says Green leader
Three of the four Island political parties say they would create a land bank as a way to keep land in the hands of farmers and bring a new generation into the industry.
P.E.I. had something similar to a land bank in the 1970s and different government reports have recommended bringing it back.
PC Leader Dennis King said, if elected, the party would put $1 million toward buying land from retiring farmers and leasing it to young people who want to take up the profession.
"Perhaps you don't have a succession plan for your farm, you don't have children that want to continue on in the tradition, you want to get some return on your investment," said King.
"This would be one potential option, at a fair and reasonable price, for government to purchase that land and keep it in agricultural production."
Land concerns part of other platforms
A land bank is also part of the Green Party platform.
Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said his party hasn't decided on whether government would buy the land directly or find a way to attract private investors on the condition they lease it to new farmers.
Bevan-Baker said the land bank is necessary to make entering the industry financially feasible.
"You know, there's no shortage of buyers now. That's not the issue," he said. "It's that the value of land has gone up. And that's one of the problems for new farmers coming into the industry is that barrier of the cost of land."
I want the farmer to own the land. I want that individual out there working the land, that's working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, to have an investment there.— Richard Brown
The NDP has been pushing for a land bank for decades as a way to keep small farms out of the hands of big corporations, said leader Joe Byrne.
"If we allow only those who are wealthy to be able to purchase that land, we're not going to change that chain. That's where we need public investment."
Not in Liberal platform
Liberal candidate Richard Brown said, if elected, the party would continue offering low-interest loans to help new farmers buy their own land.
"I want the farmer to own the land. I want that individual out there working the land, that's working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, to have an investment there," Brown said.
"Then you can use the land as equity in order to get equipment, and materials, and crop insurance and stuff like that."
The National Farmers Union on P.E.I. raised concerns last month about corporate land ownership in the province, alleging loopholes in the province's Lands Protection Act are allowing corporations to exceed limits on the amount of land they can own.
The PCs, Greens, and NDP say those loopholes need to be closed to stop corporations from owning too much land and that who owns land should be publicly available information.
The P.E.I. government recently rejected applications from three corporations to purchase 2,221 acres of land put up for sale by Brendel Farms in the Summerside area. The three corporations submitted 32 applications to purchase parcels of land. Each listed one or more members of the Irving family as shareholders.
The Lands Protection Act limits land ownership to 1,000 acres for individuals, and 3,000 acres for corporations.
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With files from Steve Bruce