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N.B. government revives decades-dormant farm subsidy

By Scott Pettigrew Jun 3, 2023 | 3:00 PM

The Government of New Brunswick is reviving a decades-dormant agricultural limestone delivery subsidy program to help farmers offset some of the cost of fertilizing their soil.

About a dozen local farmers joined Environment and Climate Change Minister Gary Crossman for Thursday’s announcement, which was made at Miller Farms in the rural community of Sussex Corner.

“The last five to 10 years have been exceptionally hard on our farmers,” says Agriculture Minister Margaret Johnson, who delivered the announcement as she acknowledged the rising input costs many farmers have been dealing with. “The cost of moving the lime is high.”

The Limestone Transportation Assistance Program, or LTAP for short, is a $500,000 program to help subsidize the cost of transporting limestone to farms across the province.  The program is on a first-come, first-served basis and is retroactive to April 1.

Each farmer can submit claims for a maximum of 300 tonnes per program year. This program will accept claims for transportation expenses incurred between April 1 and November 30, 2023.

The subsidy will be based on the farm’s distance from the three lime facilities in the province at Bathurst, Saint John, and Havelock. The minister says she hopes this added factor of accounting for distance from the limestone source will help address the problems the previous program encountered.

The amount of the subsidy ranges from $12 per tonne for distances of less than 50 kilometres to $37 per tonnes for distances of greater than 350 kilometres.

In order to qualify for the subsidy, the farm must be a Registered Professional Agricultural Producer (RPAP) or a member of the National Farmers Union.

The lime helps improve the efficiency of the fertilizers farmers use, hopefully leading to less fertilizer use and fewer greenhouse gases being emitted on farms, which is why Crossman was in attendance for the announcement.

Kier Miller, a corn, soy, and wheat farmer who hosted the announcement, says farmers have been lobbying for this program to be revived ever since it was cut but it wasn’t until now that the government has heeded the call.

“It’s going to level the playing field across the province, that’s the idea behind it,” Miller says.

Miller says that depending on what’s being farmed, up to one tonne of limestone per acre is needed to maintain the pH of the soil, which in the Sussex area, tends to be more acidic.

He says he doesn’t need to use limestone every year to maintain an ideal pH for his crops, but he knows of many farmers who do, which is why in this rising cost environment, between inflation and clean fuel charges soon to kick in, this kind of subsidy makes a significant difference.

“For example a farmer in Campbellton who buys in Havelock or Saint John, the freight bill is going to cost more than the lime,” Miller explains.

Miller says there have been some other alternatives to limestone that he’s seen through the years, but none are as beneficial as agricultural limestone.

“For a few years there was a product that came out of the pulp mills,” he says. “Yes it gave you a quick bump in your pH but there was no longevity to it…. Limestone has some staying power to it.”

Agricultural Limestone is sprayed and spread onto fields and can be applied at any time.

As for this program, the minister asked those in attendance to provide feedback so the government would know if it is meeting their need.

“Let us know if there are adjustments we need to make,” Johnson told the farmers. “There’s no point in having a program that doesn’t work.”

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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