Patrons get first opportunity to buy or lease Ag minister says the price will be based on market value
The Saskatchewan government has decided to lease or sell former federal community pastures to patrons, but agriculture minister Lyle Stewart continues to receive advice on the issue.
The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan and Sask-atchewan Association of Rural Municipalities debated the issue at their fall conventions.
Ottawa will turn over the 60 federal pastures to the province by 2018. Ten were selected for transition before the 2014 grazing season.
Stewart has said the pastures will be maintained in blocks, patrons will have the first opportunity to lease or own and sales will be based on market value. Native prairie that is sold will be subject to no-break and no-drain conservation easements.
He has also said he expects many more will be leased than will be sold.
APAS passed resolutions last month calling for public ownership to be maintained and for a committee to develop a governance structure that incorporates the existing federal management expertise. Delegates also said the land’s environmental integrity should be protected, and that all the pastures should be combined with the existing 54 provincial pastures into one system.
SARM delegates earlier voted to lobby the province to retain ownership and develop a land management structure to ensure the pastures serve local needs while operating on a cost recovery basis.
They also voted to lobby Ottawa and Regina to support local retention committees before any land is sold.
Stewart has repeatedly said patrons will get first dibs on the land.
“We aren’t selling these to the highest bidder on the open market,” he told the APAS convention. “We’re only dealing with the patrons.”
He said other parties have expressed interest in the pastures, and some are “willing to stroke a cheque for all of them.” However, the province has decided not to proceed that way.
He rejected the argument from conservationists that producers won’t manage the land properly and that they will break the land for cultivation. Most of the land in question isn’t suitable for farming.