Young ranchers will feel brunt of changes to Crown land leases: Manitoba Beef Producers
Province says putting lands up for public auction makes things fair, will boost economy
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."
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.
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.