N.S. launches rules for farmed fur industry

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Nova Scotia will be the first province in Canada to impose "firm environmental standards" on its farmed fur sector.

The province’s new but long-discussed regulations, introduced Friday, focus on environmental management of operations with over 100 mink or fox in their breeding herds — specifically on the storage, treatment and disposal of manure, waste feed and carcasses.

"Although it will download costs to the farm business, the federation feels the regulations are a reasonable balance to protect our environment while allowing the industry to develop," Dennis Boudreau, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, said in a provincial release.

The province said its farmed fur industry is growing, now worth about $140 million a year and employing about 1,000 people.

Boudreau’s family, for one, entered the mink farming business in 2008. A former vice-president of Pork Nova Scotia, he and his family remodelled what up until 2007 had been their hog farm at Concession, N.S.

Among the requirements in the province’s new regulations are a management plan, approved by a professional engineer; surface water and soil monitoring programs; minimum setbacks for buildings and manure storage, relative to property lines and waterways; and concrete pads for storing compost and solid manure.

Any new farms — or any existing operations that significantly increase their breeding herds or females — must have covered, concrete storage for liquid manure, the province noted. The new or expanded farms must also have "closed-style sheds" to house their animals.

The province on Friday also proclaimed related amendments to its Fur Industry Act, to ensure existing farms that expand get six months to comply with the new regulations. Farms not expanding, meanwhile, have a three-year "grandfather period."

Any fur farm that stops operating will be required under the amended Act to clean up its waste.

Proposals for such environmental regulations in the province’s fur sector have been on the table since 2010.

Speaking to a legislature committee on the matter last November, Nova Scotia Mink Breeders Association managing director Simeon Roberts said his phone "still rings daily with farmers asking when the regulations (would) be finalized."

Some farmers, he said, have invested "millions of dollars" in their mink farms since the laws were first proposed in 2010. As it is, he said, they "just want to know what they have to do to comply with the regulations."

The mink industry, he noted, has since expanded to become Nova Scotia’s largest ag sector in terms of farmgate sales.

"We talked with Nova Scotians, we heard their concerns, and we’ve put in place regulations that will help the industry contribute to our economy while protecting our environment," Agriculture Minister John MacDonell said in the province’s release.

Related story:
N.S. moves to regulate mink ranching sector, April 30, 2010