Prepare for change, Sask. minister tells pasture users

Patrons who use the 60 pastures Saskatchewan is inheriting from Ottawa should be prepare for change, said Saskatchewan agriculture minister Lyle Stewart.

He has seen preliminary suggestions from the committee advising the province on what to do with the former Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration pastures, but he hasn’t seen the final list from Ottawa of which five pastures will be transferred in 2013.

He said he hopes to have the list and the final recommendations within a month.

“One option we’re not interested in is operating these pastures,” Stewart said in a July 31 interview, re-emphasizing the government’s intention to sell them.

“The feds have done a good job of it over the years but it’s been a very expensive experience I think.”

He said the province has contacted patron groups to make sure they are “getting their heads around what some of the options might be.”

“We’ll be out there pushing some of them, too, that we think are pretty good prospects and pretty well organized to go early.”

The committee has recommended the individual pastures should be kept in a block as much as possible and that any native grass sold to patrons should be sold with a conservation easement that forbids breaking or draining the land.

The committee suggested patrons groups form into legal entities so they can buy or lease the land. Also, any sales should be made at market value.

Stewart said the federal government experienced astronomical losses by requiring patrons to pay only about one-third of actual costs.

Grazing fees are 45 cents per cow and 60 cents per bull per day. The fee for calves is $25 per head per season or $35 per head if born on the pasture.

“Just leasing the land these days, you have to pay around $1 a head, and you have to fix the fences and bring your own bulls and ride your own pastures,” he said.

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