Man. abandons grazing lease auction

For the next five weeks, cattle ranchers in Manitoba can share their views about crown land leases.

Last fall, the provincial government amended the rules for agricultural Crown land leases, shortening the lease from 50 to 15 years, changing to an open auction to bid on available leases and increasing the rental rate. The province said the amendments would provide new entrants and young farmers more opportunity to access crown lands.

The changes didn’t go over well.

Beef producers were outraged. They said shorter leases and an auction system are disincentives to invest in improvements for hay land and pasture. Why would a producer spend money on a piece of crown land if another farmer could post a higher bid and reap the benefits of those investments?

The issue dominated the conversation in Manitoba’s cattle sector last winter. At the Manitoba Beef Producer’s annual meeting in early February, there were 20 resolutions on the crown land leasing program.

The government listened to the arguments and is now changing the regulations so producers have the first opportunity to renew their crown land lease.

“When the regulation was updated in October 2019, there were concerns that the regulation did not provide an appropriate amount of certainty and continuity for family farms who had previously obtained an agricultural crown land forage lease or permit,” the province says on its regulatory consultation portal at reg.gov.mb.ca/.

“The regulatory amendment will enable renewals of legacy leases only, as well as continuing the renewability of these leases through successive family transfers, ensuring that existing family farm operations have stability in their leased land holdings.”

The province expects the amendments will be passed shortly after the 45-day consultation period that ends Nov. 15.

Most cattle producers are pleased with the change, but Manitoba Beef Producers is asking its members to share their thoughts about the Agricultural Crown Land program.

“MBP believes this consultation is a very important opportunity for producers to restate their views given the value of stability and continuity when it comes to a beef operation’s access to ACL,” the group said in a release.

Manitoba Beef Producers is concerned about other changes to the program, such as rental rate increases. Its asking for a five-year transition on the rental rate increase.

“A longer transition period would take into account factors such as successive challenging production years, which drove up feed costs for many ACL lease holders, as well as ongoing uncertainty related to the pandemic and its implications for cattle markets going forward, among other factors facing the lease holders,” the MBP said.

Cattle producers can submit their comments about the ACL program changes at reg.gov.mb.ca/.

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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