No programs in works to help young farmers

Gov’t loans, tried in the past, didn’t work: ag minister

Saskatchewan’s agriculture minister doesn’t have comforting words for young people wanting to start farming.

“I don’t like to give false hope to people who don’t have a farm family backing them or a lot of capital coming into the game,” Lyle Stewart told delegates attending the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities’ annual convention.

“It’s just not an easy thing to get started in.”

Stewart was responding to a SARM delegate seeking government help for young farmers entering the business.

Brekke Masse, administrator for the RM of Wood River, said her husband quit a job in the construction industry in 2007 to work the farm where Masse was raised.

The couple farms together with her husband’s parents and his brothers so that they can share capital expenditures. However, they are still finding it hard.

“The cost of land and high prices for inputs make it difficult for young people such as my husband and I to establish our own identity on our family farm operation,” Masse told Saskatchewan’s provincial cabinet during the convention’s bear pit session.

She said “booming yields” and strong commodity prices have kept young farmers afloat the past few years, but that won’t always be the case.

Federal programs such as AgriStability and AgriInvest depend on declining profit margins and provide no assistance to farmers wanting to invest in their operations.

Masse thinks the province could provide tax credits for young producers or increase the capital cost allowance.

“I’m asking this government to consider assisting young farmers,” she said.

Stewart said the barriers to entry in farming have been a problem for government as far back as he can remember.

“And I can remember back quite a ways,” he said.

“There are no easy solutions.”

Farming is such a capital-intensive business that it is extremely difficult for anybody who isn’t part of a succession plan to become a farmer.

Stewart said Saskatchewan has tried lending money to young farmers, but it didn’t work well. The province also ran a land bank program more than 30 years ago, in which the government bought land and leased it to producers.

“That didn’t really help either,” said Stewart. “The vast majority of producers who took up either the loans or the land bank land have been gone for decades now.”

Stewart said he is open to any suggestions on how the government can help young producers get established in the business.

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