The provincial government is revamping its administration of Crown lands, something the provincial agriculture minister says will ensure compliance with the New West Partnership Agreement.
Ralph Eichler announced the changes in a media release this week, saying they will make the process more transparent for farmers and ranchers.
“Modernizing access to agricultural Crown lands helps fulfil our commitment to this agreement,” Eichler said in a release. “We look forward to refining these changes in consultation with our producers.”
The new Agricultural Crown Lands Leases and Permits Regulation will amalgamate two separate regulations related to forage leases, hay and grazing permits, and cropping leases. It will change how producers will acquire Crown lands for grazing and haying from the current model to a new tendering system.
This will be consistent with how agricultural Crown land is accessed for other uses, like growing crops, and will ensure prices paid by producers more accurately reflect the market value of these leases and permits, the minister added.
Industry consultations will be held in the coming year, with the shift to a tendering system for all agricultural Crown lands expected to be in place for fall 2018.
One of the stakeholder groups most affected has applauded the change. Manitoba Beef Producers said most of the proposed changes were welcomed, but added full and open industry consultations are still an important part of the process.
MBP president Ben Fox said the group looked forward to participation in the process and encouraged members to get involved too.
“The old system of allocation was often frustrating for producers and was also lacking in transparency, so the announcement of a more open process is very important to our membership,” said Fox, who noted MBP is in favour of the government’s move to join the New West Partnership Trade Agreement. “However, we do have a number of concerns as we move forward and will ensure they are raised with the government.”
MBP indicated it was most concerned with ensuring land remained available for cattle production and hay permits and that land access remained affordable.
The opposition NDP expressed concern the changes could see land leases become more expensive and shut out young producers.
“Eliminating the points system will make it harder for new or younger producers to build their business, and could lead to the consolidation of land leases by big corporations,” said NDP Leader Wab Kinew, noting New West Partnership member Saskatchewan continues to use a point system.