The 41-page report, called 'The Role of Agriculture in Bermuda's Future,' was researched and prepared by Aran McKittrick.

Citing past studies and surveys along with interviews with farmers and planning officials, Mr McKittrick said the farming industry is facing significant threats because of the financial benefits of building on agricultural land.

"As more people have been encouraged to reside on the Island, more demand has been placed on limited housing stock," the report says.

"A demand for more housing has resulted and the pressure to develop open space including agricultural land to supply this demand has increased."

While agriculture used to be a major part of the Bermuda economy with more than 3,000 farmers, there are now just over 50, with only 18 being full-time.

The decrease in farming has caused Bermuda to become increasingly reliant on imported foods and goods. According to some estimates, and Bermuda's current rate of food production, the population would have to be reduced by three-quarters in order for the Island to be self-sustainable.

Bermuda is currently able to get by almost entirely on imported goods, Mr McKittrick said that improving our food security would help safeguard the Island from global issues.

"When the Icelandic volcano stopped flights in Europe, a lot of people were panicked.

"A lot of the fresh produce was cut off," he said.

"I'm not scare-mongering. Right now we can get almost anything we want the next day, but food security needs to be treated like any other kind of security."

Only 360 acres, less than half of Bermuda's 735 acres of agricultural land, is currently being used for farming.

Because planning regulations protect agricultural land from development, some land owners have turned their arable land into lawns or gardens, to improve the land's value, further reducing the amount of land for farming according to the report.

"In extreme cases, landowners have removed and sold the soil in part or in whole from a plot of land. Attempts have then been made to have the land re-zoned for development, as land owners or their agents would argue that the land no longer had any agricultural potential," the report says.

Mr McKittrick wrote that when the Bermuda Plan 2008 was created, around a quarter of all complaints were from people who wanted to re-zone agricultural land.

"According to 2008 market values, on average agricultural land was worth an estimated $200,000 to $400,000 per acre, but $1.5 million to $3 million per acre if sold with a development zoning."

The report said that environmental groups are also concerned about the growing frequency of Special Development Orders (SDOs), which allow reserved land to be used for purposes classified as being in the national interest.

The report makes numerous suggestions as to how keep the industry alive, including establishing additional tax relief for farmers and tax incentives for land owners who allow their land to be farmed.

The report also suggests the creation of a national plan for agriculture, and promoting community involvement in farming.

Farmer Anthony Amaral, of Amaral Produce, said Government should consider creating tax incentives to encourage land owners to allow their land to be farmed.

"The number one issue is trying to get arable land back into cultivation," Mr Amaral said.

"There needs to be some sort of incentive for land owners, like a reduction in property tax provided that the land gets put back into cultivation."

His brother Carlos Amaral agreed, saying: "Proactive steps must be taken to ensure that we have some capability in the future to provide food for our Island, hopefully by attracting more young Bermudians in to the industry.

"Let's face it. We can't all be lawyers, doctors and accountants, and we definitely can't rely on other countries to feed us."

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