Mermaid-Stratford MLA Michele Beaton wanted to know why the budget allotment for the Agriculture Stewardship Program had been cut by $200,000 for the 2020-2021 budget year.
The Green Party MLA raised the issue during debate on the estimates of the Department of Agriculture and Land. According to Mary Kinsman, who is the department's director of financial and corporate services, part of the answer is the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This year our stewardship program was a little slow starting because of COVID and because we couldn’t go on the properties to do some of the work," she explained. "We have redistributed funding within the CAP program. What we do is on a regular basis we meet with the managers of the programs to see what the uptake is like and we may take this – part way through the year, if we see that there’s a higher need somewhere else, we may juggle it but this is how we started the year. "
Agriculture and Land Minister Bloyce Thompson agreed, adding "We had a slower year because of COVID. " We are moving the money around just to make sure we utilize all the programs the best we can. "
Beaton also asked whether the Crop Rotation Act would be up for review, along with the Planning Act and the Lands Protection Act. Thompson replied "I think it will be. We’ll have to take that and bring it forward. It’s something that we will review. "
The opposition MLA praised the hiring of a soil health coordinator, but noted that during a soil health conference earlier this year, "the actual expert that was talking about it was talking how they don’t rotate their land and the fact that we actually had a Crop Rotation Act here was kind of surprising to them because it wasn’t something – we were ahead. They’re dealing with a lot of soil issues, compaction all that kind of stuff. "
Thompson predicted there would be an increased focus on soil health, adding that with Bradford Rooney in the newly created coordinator position "I think we can really champion soil health and rotations and that’s a great idea. "