Nfld. to cover extra limestone trucking costs

With Newfoundland’s last limestone supplier closing its gates, the province plans to expand its farm limestone program to cover the costs of out-of-province shipments.

“The closure of Island Aggregates of Deer Lake is a loss for that region of the province, but it is also having a significant ripple effect for our farmers,” said Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale in a release Tuesday.

“Soil in this province is very acidic and it requires large amounts of limestone to improve soil productivity. The largest cost of limestone is shipping and the province has traditionally covered the trucking costs associated with limestone,” said Dunderdale, whose portfolio includes the provincial Forestry and Agrifoods Agency.

The provincial program, originally budgeted for about $442,000 this year, covers the cost to truck about 4,500 tonnes of limestone to about 75 farmers each year between May and November. Dunderdale was quoted on CBC on Tuesday as saying she expects the province will have to double the program’s budgeted funding.

A limestone program has operated in the province since the 1950s, the government said. Apart from the freight, farmers cover the bulk of the costs for the limestone.

The funding is effective immediately, the province said, with the first shipment of limestone expected to leave New Brunswick for Newfoundland and Labrador this week.

“We recognize this is a serious and urgent issue for many farmers because this is the very time of year they apply limestone to their soils,” Dunderdale said. “This solution will cover this growing season while we work to re-establish a long-term supply of limestone within the province.”

According to Corner Brook’s Western Star newspaper, Island Aggregates shut its doors at Deer Lake (northeast of Corner Brook) on May 22 under financial duress, though the company said it’s talking to potential investors and is not in receivership.

The company’s owner was quoted on the paper’s web site Tuesday saying that given sufficient support, Island Aggregates could still provide limestone for Newfoundland farmers much more cheaply than what the province will now have to pay to import it.

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