Sask. government to make farmland ownership, enforcement changes

The Saskatchewan government is introducing changes that will dictate who can own farmland in the province.

The changes are expected to come into effect by 2016

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart speaks to reporters on Oct. 20. (Brian Rodgers/CBC)

The Saskatchewan government is introducing changes that will dictate who can own farmland in the province.

Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart announced the proposed amendments to The Saskatchewan Farm Security Act on Tuesday.

The changes would also give the Farm Land Security Board more authority.

"This summer, we asked the people of Saskatchewan to share their views to help us inform our decision on farmland ownership," Stewart said in a news release. "They did, and as a result we are making changes that will keep farmland accessible to Saskatchewan's farmers and ranchers."

Earlier this month, a Ministry of Agriculture survey showed overwhelming opposition to foreign and investor ownership of Saskatchewan farmland.

The government said the amendments include:

  • Making pension plans, administrators of pension fund assets and trusts not eligible to buy farmland
  • Defining "having an interest in farmland" to include any type of interest or benefit (i.e. capital appreciation), either directly or indirectly, that is normally associated with ownership of the land
  • When financing a purchase of farmland, all financing must be through a financial institution registered to do business in Canada, or a Canadian resident

Changes to the Farm Land Security Board (FLSB) include:

  • At the discretion of the FLSB, any person purchasing farmland must complete a statutory declaration
  • Placing the onus to prove compliance with the legislation onto the person purchasing the land
  • Increasing fines for being in contravention of the legislation from $10,000 to $50,000 for individuals and from $100,000 to $500,000 for corporations
  • Authorizing the FLSB to impose administrative penalties to a maximum of $10,000.

"Our government understands that to many in the province, farmland is not just an asset," Stewart said. "It is a connection to our history and who we are as people. Farmers and ranchers want the opportunity to own the land they farm."

The changes are expected to come into effect by 2016.

NDP critical of changes

Saskatchewan NDP MLA Cathy Sproule speaks to reporters on Oct. 20. (Brian Rodgers/CBC)

NDP MLA Cathy Sproule said the changes to the Farm Security Act don't go far enough.

"I think the Farm Land Security Board needs much more tougher tools to force disclosure on the part of the financing of these purchases," Sproule said.

She said people in the public have raised similar concerns to her.

"What we need is an ability for the Farm Land Security Board to have documentary proof that the sources of financing are indeed from within Canada," she said.


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