NS: Mink industry reacts to regulations

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Tina Comeau
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The Vanguard

Mink farms

[YARMOUTH, NS] — The Nova Scotia Mink Breeders Association says it believes the province’s draft fur farm regulations are a step in the right direction.

But the mink farm industry also says the regulations must address all concerns, including the concerns of the people who invest their time, money and labour in mink farming.

A consultation session between the Department of Agriculture and the industry was held in Weymouth on July 20, where members of the industry could share comments and concerns about the draft regulations that were recently released.

A day earlier, local residents, municipal politicians, and local environmental groups did the same during a consultation session held in Carleton.

Simeon Roberts, the managing director of the Nova Scotia Mink Breeders Association, says there are aspects of the draft regulations that concern members of the association, particularly people who operate small farms.

“For example, the costs of development site management plans and drilling monitoring wells are of concern to a number of our members,” says Roberts. “They are not saying that this should not be done, but they are concerned about the cost.”

Under the draft regulations, farms with more than 500 animals are required to have at least three water monitoring wells on site. In information posted online by the Department of Agriculture, the department says the estimated cost of the monitoring wells may be in the range of $5,000, with another $600 annually for water sampling. At the consultation session in Carleton, however, government spokesperson Mike Chisholm said the cost for fur farm operators to comply with the regulations may be closer to $10,000. The financial burden to fur farms is one reason the government is giving farms that maintain a status-quo operation three years to comply with the regulations.

Roberts says there are also concerns within industry about proposed fees and penalties.

The availability and number of qualified engineers to help develop or endorse site management plans within the three-year implementation process is another source of concern, says Roberts.

The regulations say a management plan must address manure collection, storage and disposal; waste feed storage and disposal; carcass storage and disposal; water monitoring; lastly, reporting and record keeping requirements. Site approval permits and operating licenses are based on the Department of Agriculture’s approval of the management plans.

Despite concerns the industry has, however, Roberts says the mink breeders association is prepared to cooperate and members will operate their farms in good faith under these regulations.

Roberts notes the association did not provide input as the draft regulations were being put together, but the association will be offering its “collective comments, criticisms and suggestions” to government prior to the Aug. 19 deadline for public comment.

“As we move forward, we will look for ways to improve the regulations and the industry they serve,” he adds. “Should we find that any of the regulations are harmful to our industry, we will bring this to the attention of the government to try to offer constructive solutions.”

Roberts says the mink farm industry employs between 1,000 and 2,000 people in rural parts of the province. The export industry also contributes around $100 million annually to the Nova Scotia economy.

“Various taxes on that money, things like HST, income tax and property taxes, amount to an estimated $30 million and help support education, health care, transportation and other programs that benefit all Nova Scotians,” he says.

The mink industry – which has a large concentration in Digby County – has been blamed by many in Yarmouth County for a blue-green algae problem in many Yarmouth County lakes, which they claim is due to manure and waste run-off by farms that is adding excessive nutrients to the water.

Roberts says as residents of the province, mink farmers and their families want to conserve and protect the environment.

“We live here and we love it, and we want our industry to be well-managed because we, too, want to continue to enjoy all that Nova Scotia has to offer,” he says. “We are committed to doing our part to maintain a healthy and sustainable environment.”

Roberts says the association supported the province’s new fur farm act when it was introduced last year because “we believe it provides appropriate guidance for the sound management and development of our industry for years to come.”

He says the association feels good legislation and good regulations can be beneficial to the industry.

Organizations: Department of Agriculture, Nova Scotia Mink Breeders Association

Geographic location: Weymouth, Carleton, Nova Scotia Yarmouth County Digby County

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