60 pastures in province | Patrons of the federal pastures have questions about forming partnerships to buy the land
SASKATOON — Cattle producers using federal community pastures in Saskatchewan want to delay the transfer of the first 10 from government to users.
Representatives from 56 pastures met in Saskatoon Jan. 23 to form the Community Pasture Patron’s Association of Saskatchewan to lobby for the delay. Not all the pastures have joined the new group.
The federal government had agreed to a delay until 2014 and would have to approve an extension to 2015.
Ian McCreary, a mixed farmer from Bladworth and former CWB director, is president of the new organization. He said patrons need more time to consider all the options.
“Our local community pasture has been a critical part of our family farm business for three generations,” he said in a statement.
“It is not responsible for government to hastily disband this important community resource without consultation with the people affected.”
Ottawa announced earlier this year it would transfer its 85 pastures to the provinces. Saskatchewan has 60 pastures and the lion’s share of the land involved, much of which was never properly surveyed or registered with land titles.
The move also affects 200 pasture managers and riders, who are federal employees.
The Saskatchewan government said from the outset that it did not intend to operate the pastures. It appointed an advisory committee of cattle producers, including a pasture patron, to make recommendations on how to proceed.
Provincial agriculture minister Lyle Stewart repeated at last week’s meeting the government’s four transition principles:
- Patrons will have the first opportunity to buy or lease the pastures.
- Each pasture will be maintained as a block.
- Any sales will be at market value.
- Any sale of native prairie will be subject to no-break and no-drain conservation easements in perpetuity.
He also reiterated that the province will not retain operations of the 60 pastures by adding them to the 52 community pastures it now operates.
Stewart said meetings are underway with the patron groups of the first 10 — Estevan-Cambria, Excel, Fairview, Ituna-Bon Accord, Keywest, Lone Tree, McCraney, Newcombe, Park and Wolverine — to go over “concrete numbers” and help them develop business plans.
“We know patron groups are hungry for information,” he said.
Meeting organizer Joanne Brochu, a Colonsay farmer and patron of the Hazel Dell pasture in eastern Sask-atchewan, said she is concerned about fair market value and whether the pastures would be affordable.
Issues include the value of pasture improvements such as fencing and watering systems, costs that might be incurred for issues such as species at risk protection and compensation for disruption by oil and gas activity.
Stewart said it’s clear some pastures will have to be leased.
“The lease rates will be based on the carrying capacity of the pastures and so on. I think they’ll be fair,” he said.
Brochu said she was also concerned about being asked to go into partnership with people she had never met should her patron group decide to buy land by establishing a co-operative or corporation.
Stewart said regional patrons-only meetings will be held next month.
Meanwhile, patrons in Manitoba have formed an association and developed a business plan that it has presented to the provincial government.
It proposes that the non-profit association take over the pastures at a cost to producers of 60 cents per head per day for a cow and $30 per year for a calf, based on 90 percent capacity.
Pasture managers and riders would be reduced from full time to 75 percent employment.
There are 24 federal community pastures affected in Manitoba.