Crown land still sore point for Man. producers

Government changed original proposal to revise lease arrangements, but sticking points still irritate cattle producers

Manitoba cattle producers are still concerned about access to crown lands.

At the annual meeting for Manitoba Beef Producers, held Feb. 6-7 in Brandon, cattle producers brought forward about 40 resolutions for discussion.

Of those 40, about 20 were resolutions on the agricultural crown lands leasing program in Manitoba.

In October, the provincial government announced changes to the leasing program. A public auction would replace the old approach, which was a complex points system to determine who earned the right to lease agricultural crown land.

The MBP supported that change but not other alterations to the system. The province reduced the term of leases to a 15-year maximum, instead of 50 years.

Cattle producers pushed back against that change and the government relented.

The term is still 15 years, but the province gave producers the first right of renewal.

“Giving existing forage lease holders the option to renew their legacy leases for additional terms provides the consistency they need for their operations,” said former Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler in October. “This will enable succession planning for family farms.”

Despite that improvement, cattle producers remain frustrated.

Many of the resolutions at the AGM were connected to rental rates, which will be significantly higher.

“There’s been a fairly substantial increase in the cost. The new rental rate formula has put quite a bit more (cost) onto that forage lease,” said Carson Callum, Manitoba Beef Producers general manager. “We’ve heard various accounts (on cost)…. It’s about double.”

Provincial reps have said the changes are necessary to ensure that young farmers and new entrants have access to agricultural crown lands.

“That’s the approach we’ve heard from the government, as well,” Callum said.

“We just want to make sure that people who are utilizing it properly, that this (cost) doesn’t keep going up. There’s a balance there, (which) needs to be struck.”

Callum and the MBP hope to meet with Agriculture Minister Blaine Pedersen about more improvements to the crown lands leasing program.

On Feb. 7, Pedersen announced a new program that may alleviate another concern of Manitoba beef producers — wildlife predation.

The province is providing $300,000 for a three-year research project, looking at ways to reduce wildlife predation and the economic cost to livestock producers.

It is creating a Livestock Predation Protection Working Group, which includes representation from MBP, the Manitoba Sheep Association, Manitoba Agriculture and the Manitoba Trappers Association.

“Manitoba Beef Producers has long advocated for strategies to reduce the risk of negative wildlife-livestock interaction and conflict, and we are pleased to see this important project moving forward,” said Dianne Riding, who is the new MBP president.

“This project will help improve the understanding of the risks, and work toward developing effective prevention and mitigation methods to reduce future losses.”

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