New Brunswick

Province moves to pay farmers who set aside land for conservation

The program will also reward farmers who protect ponds, wetlands, and pollinator habitats.

Farms urged to put aside land for pollinators and buffer zones along rivers

A farmer sits in a tractor that is moving along fields on a farm. The field is split into rows and trees and hills may be seen in the background.
New Brunswick farmers will soon be paid for setting aside land for conservation under a new provincial-federal funding model. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Farmers in New Brunswick will be urged to leave parts of their land untilled under a new provincial program to motivate conservation.

Known as the Resilient Agricultural Landscape Program, provincial and federal funding will be used to reward farmers who increase the resilience of their farms.

It's in part aimed at reducing tillage, which would allow certain sections of farmland to rest for a season or two, which increases the fertility of the land. The measure will also reward farmers who protect ponds, wetlands, and pollinator habitats.

Specific details of the New Brunswick plan will be released on April 1.

John Russell, with the Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick, said the program will help both farmers and the environment beyond existing government programs.

Russell said it's only fair for farmers to be rewarded for not using part of their land for the greater good of society.

"For the farmers, if they were farming that area in the past, then that's going to be a loss for them," Russell said. "So it's a payment that could perhaps help them find new land close by that's maybe more suitable or less needy of environmental protection."

John Russell poses for a photo
John Russell with the New Brunswick Agricultural Alliance said the program will be a positive one for farmers and the environment. (Rachel Cave/CBC)

He added that losing productive, fertile land could be "quite a detriment to the farm," and changes like that are a lot for farmers to consider.

"Most of our farms are operating on a business model, they've got to make money to keep the farm running. So they've got to look at the economics of it."

Russell said while farmers might want to conserve parts of their property without incentives like this, any acreage that's not used takes away from profits.

"It's sort of too bad that often a farmer that has been doing great practices in the past hasn't been getting compensated, but hopefully this can help compensate for that."

It's often been local, family-run farms that have taken steps to protect acreage in the past, and it's time for them to receive compensation for that loss, Russell said.

A wetland with cattails and grassy areas around it
New Brunswick's program will reward farmers who reduce tillage, protect ponds and wetlands and protect pollinator habitats. (Submitted by Adam Campbell)

"A lot of our farms in the past, I think especially the woodlots, families have protected those because they felt a sentiment to protect those areas. But they never got compensated for it."

In a news release, N.B. Agriculture Minister Margaret Johnson said that farmers are recognized as stewards of the land.

"However, some environmental beneficial management practices and land uses come at a significant expense to the farm," Johnson said.

"This program will help incentivize farmers to further enhance their environmental stewardship for the benefit of everyone."

Russell said a pilot program was done 15 years ago to determine what would be a suitable way to pay farmers for land that's not used, based on how much benefit society gets back. 

While specific details are yet to come, Russell said he suspects value will be determined on acreage of protected land.

With a demographic shift toward larger, corporate farms in recent decades across Canada, Russell said there's an even greater need for protection. Larger farms often are more focused on profit and getting returns from the land, he said.

"So I think some of our areas are more at risk of more intensive agriculture, and this will help protect some areas that we feel are more needy of protection," Russell said.

"So it's good for the climate long term, it's good for production long-term, and it's good for all the ecosystems in that soil."

While New Brunswick is breaking new ground with this program, it's by no means unique. Nova Scotia adopted a similar program last year, and Prince Edward Island has had one since 2018.

Both of those provinces have a special application stream for Indigenous farmers, but the New Brunswick release gives no indication if this will also apply here.

Bruce Nunn, a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture, said in an emailed statement that their program is going "very well."

Since the program started, Nunn said there have been 59 applications from farms and just over $1 million in funds have been distributed so far.


Sam Farley


Sam Farley is a Fredericton-based reporter at CBC New Brunswick. Originally from Boston, he is a journalism graduate of the University of King's College in Halifax. He can be reached at

With files from Shift and New Brunswick News at 6