Manitoba

Young ranchers will feel brunt of changes to Crown land leases: Manitoba Beef Producers

The Manitoba government is being criticized for making changes to Crown lands that an industry group says could deal struggling cattle ranchers another blow.

Province says putting lands up for public auction makes things fair, will boost economy

Lake Manitoba beef producer Arvid Nottveit said the move would have been a major blow to his family. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

The Manitoba government is being criticized for making changes to Crown lands that an industry group says could deal another blow to already struggling cattle ranchers.

The province is changing how Crown lands are leased, and Manitoba Beef Producers says the changes will make life harder for young farmers.

The province leases out some of its Crown lands that are suitable for agricultural for purposes such as cattle grazing. There are approximately 1,750 forage leaseholders, the province said in a Sept. 27 news release announcing its changes, and the land administered by the lease program can feed nearly 90,000 cattle for the grazing season.

Under the changes, Crown land leases will be reduced from a maximum of 50 to 15 years. As well, new leases or renewable permits will now be made available through public auction, instead of being allowed to pass down from a farmer to his or her relatives.

"I'm basically going to be done with the cattle business. I've been in it pretty much my whole life and I'm going to be done," said Arvid Nottveit, a rancher from Peonan Point, Man.

"It's just really devastating."

Nottveit owns 400 acres and leases another 9,600 acres. He said if he loses the lease in 2034 when it's up, the 400 acres he owns won't be enough for his 340 cows.

He said the move by the government is a blow to his children who are interested in taking over the family business, which is almost 100 years old.

"I was going to set them up. I was going to help them get into the business to keep the cow herd going."

The general manager of Manitoba Beef Producers said it's heard many concerns from ranchers about the changes.

"Access and predictability really are really important for long-term planning" for cattle farmers, Carson Callum said in a phone interview Tuesday.

"As they're investing into their property, they need to have assurances that the land that they're investing in isn't just going to be lost after the term of the lease, so they need to be able to have assurances that they can renew it, which will be particularly important for young families who are trying to do a lot of long-term planning."

Some cattle ranchers in the province have been struggling for years and say they've never recovered from the floods of 2011 and 2014.

The general manager of the Manitoba Beef Producers says a number of ranchers voiced concerns about the changes the province had made. (Patrick Foucault/Radio-Canada)

Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew says the changes will push small farmers out and allow big corporations to come in.

"They're going to make it more expensive for young farmers to get their start if they're working with livestock. They're going to make it more difficult for families to hand down the family farm to the next generation," Kinew said Tuesday at the Manitoba Legislature, after raising the issue in question period.

The province, though, argues the new system is fair and transparent.

"The updated regulation will … help contribute to provincial economic growth by helping expand our livestock industry, further positioning us as a leader in protein production and processing," Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler said in the province's Sept. 27 news release.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew says the changes would have had a negative impact on young ranchers in Manitoba. He raised it in question period this week and on Friday the government changed its position on the matter. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Callum said Manitoba Beef Producers submitted a paper to the government in April asking for existing leaseholders to have the first right of renewal, instead of having the leases go up for auction.

"There is a large portion of producers that are affected and are voicing their concerns on the matter," Callum said.

Beef producers do believe the auction process is the right approach for new leases as it can determine the value of the land in the area, he said.

He did praise the province for removing a cap on the number of animals that are allowed to be grazed on land, and for committing to promoting compliance and using enforcement to ensure lands are being used properly.

About the Author

​Austin Grabish started reporting when he was young, landing his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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