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Saskatchewan does right by farmers: survey

Saskatchewan farmers think their provincial agriculture department is doing something right.

Manitoba’s producers think their department is doing something wrong.

That’s the main conclusion of a compilation of three surveys the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has conducted in the past couple of years with farmer and agribusiness members.

“In Saskatchewan, the government is much more friendly to small business,” said Manitoba CFIB director Elliot Sims from his family’s farm near MacGregor, Man., where he was helping complete the corn harvest.

“There’s a stark difference in the approach of the Manitoba government.”

That includes higher and increasing taxes plus a more onerous regulatory approach in Manitoba, Sims said.

A recent survey of farmers and ag biz owners shows Sask. farmers feel their gov't is friendly toward small businesses - How do you feel?

The CFIB analysis says 66 percent of Saskatchewan farmer-members are “confident that their provincial Ministry of Agriculture has a vision that supports” agricultural development, but only 19 percent of Manitoba farmer-members feel the same way.

Sims said a welter of small tax and cost increases have annoyed Manitoba farmers, while regulatory problems are getting worse.

“Our government is getting in the way of agribusiness owners far more than in Saskatchewan,” said Sims.

Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan president Norm Hall said he wasn’t surprised by the Saskatchewan number.

“I’m just realizing how lucky we are with the minister and the ministry we have,” said Hall.

He noted the challenge for Manitoba farmers in having a city-dominated population and city-based provincial government.

“They might not realize what issues people in the country are facing,” he said.

Keystone Agricultural Producers president Dan Mazier echoed Hall’s point about Manitoba’s city-based political culture creating problems for farmers hoping to be heard and understood.

However, he said farmers are fortunate that the NDP government has an open door policy with KAP and other organizations. Some policies and regulations may upset farmers, but their views are at least recognized.

“I do feel we are very well respected,” said Mazier.

“We’ve got a very, very good working relationship.”

Saskatchewan agriculture minister Lyle Stewart said farmers just want to be consulted and see policies implemented in a co-operative manner.

“We consult with industry leaders and farmers and ranchers and other agricultural stakeholders as much as we possibly can so that we can move forward in a direction that not only contributes to the long-term sustainable growth of the agricultural sector but also in a direction that agricultural stakeholders feel comfortable with,” said Stewart.

He didn’t seem surprised at the results, since “farmers and ranchers and other agricultural stakeholders are businesspeople and we’re a government that’s pro-business.”

He said he thinks Saskatchewan’s farmers might have been as unhappy as Manitoba’s are now if the surveys had been completed during the province’s previous NDP government.

The CFIB results come from three separate surveys: the April 2014 State of Agriculture; the January-December 2014 Our Farmer Members’ Opinion and the October 2015 farmer subset of the Monthly Business Barometer.

Sims said the findings should be a wake-up call to the Manitoba government, which seems to “turn a blind eye” to the impact of taxes and regulations on farmers.

“We’ve got higher taxes and more red tape than we had five years ago,” said Sims.

The Manitoba government could not be reached for comment.

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