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Comment: Crown land changes will hurt young producers

I will start off by saying I don’t envy the position of the people involved in making the decisions to change the Crown lands program. You can never make everyone happy. However, I have some concerns that I would like to express.

I went to the last meeting held at Moosehorn about the alterations being made to the program and heard about how the new changes were supposed to help the young farmers and grow the cow herd in Manitoba.

However, as I looked around the room I couldn’t help but notice the age of most of the farmers and ranchers represented and it became very clear to me my age group of young farmers and entrepreneurs is not well represented.

According to statistics, the average age of farmers in Canada is 55 and aging, many of which don’t have a succession plan. I am a young farmer, and I fear that the voices of my peers are not being heard.

A little about myself. I am 31 years old and starting out farming with my younger brother. We are starting from scratch trying to build a cow herd and buy land but we are mortgaged to the max, we need more land to grow into a viable operation and the Crown lands lease program is a possible avenue that could help us to grow and become established.

I also heard at the Moosehorn meeting that the 15-year term for the legacy leases may be getting automatic first right of renewal (which I only think is fair to the established family ranches that are passed down for generations).

However, I was told that any new leases are not granted this right. I feel it would not be fair that new leases were not given at least the same rights as the legacy leases for the established ranches.

I feel that if the Crown lands program is truly trying to help the young farmers, they should have a similar program for young farmers as MASC. If nothing else, young farmers under 40 years old just starting out (especially if they have taken out large mortgages on land, cattle and equipment) should be given the first right for renewal at least once after the first 15-year term. That would give them at a minimum of 30 years so they can at least have time to pay off mortgages.

I feel that if a young person is going to stick their neck out, take out loans and put their entire future and livelihood on the line, they should be granted the little bit of security that might offer.

Also, concerning the prices increasing on Crown lands leases, from what I understand, that should help with leaseholders who are hanging on to parcels of land and not using them. However, I feel that similar to MASC’s young farmer program, young farmers under 40 and starting out should be able to get a rebate for a percentage of their fees for the first few years to help offset some of the costs associated with starting out in the ranching industry.

I have taken the time to write the Crown lands staff and inform them of my concerns. So far I have only got an automated response saying that they had received my letter, but I still feel the exercise was worthwhile.

Other young cattle producers with similar concerns should take the time to do the same to add their voice to the call for more amendments to the proposed changes.

Jess W. Dyck lives, farms and trains horses in the Faulkner area.

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