Community pasture program to wind down

Ottawa is getting out of the community pasture business and streamlining Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada by rolling the Agri-Environment Services Branch, formerly known as PFRA, into the new Science and Technology Branch.

Details were still trickling out last week, but according to Cam Dahl, general manager of the Manitoba Beef Producers, cattle farmers will still have access to community pastures this spring.

“We don’t know all of the details yet,” he said in an interview April 13. “It’s my understanding it will be a five- to six-year transition period. The land will go back to who owned it.”

In Manitoba, the province owns most community pastures but some of the land is municipal.

It’s not known if the province or others will take on the job of running the pastures for cattle producers who drop herds off to graze starting in May and pick them up in the fall.

Three years

The Agri-Environment Services Branch, operates 85 pastures in Western Canada totalling 930,000 acres. According to the government website there are 24 in Manitoba, 61 in Saskatchewan and two in Alberta.

Over the next three years, 10 community pastures in Manitoba will close with all 21 to be shut down by 2018, according to Public Service Alliance of Canada spokesman Jeffrey Vallis.

“We’ll have to talk to the producers who use the pastures,” about their future, Dahl said.

“We want to make sure this land stays in agriculture use and that the producers who were using it still have access to it in some form. That’s going to take some consultation and some time.”

An AFFC official said the following seven Agri-Environment Services Branch field locations will close in the next 12 to 18 months: Dawson Creek, B.C., Medicine Hat, Alta., Vegreville, Alta., Hanna, Alta., Gravelbourg, Sask., Rosetown, Sask., and Moose Jaw, Sask.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Co-operative Association says Ottawa is dropping its Co-operative Development Initiative (CDI), a program that’s backed new and emerging co-operatives since 2003.

Shelterbelts

Ottawa is also closing its shelterbelt tree nursery at Indian Head, which has operated since 1901. Local officials hope it will be privatized.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz justified the cuts saying farmers don’t farm now like they did 100 years ago.

“And it’s time to take a long, hard look and refocus the energies and dollars of Agriculture Canada… and what way best builds the future for today’s producers,’’ Ritz was quoted as saying by the Canadian Press.

AAFC’s Rural and Co-oper-atives Secretariat, which administers programs related to co-operatives, will be significantly reduced in size.

“We view this as a lack of recognition of the importance of co-operatives in job creation and economic growth in this country,” Brigitte Gagne, executive director of the Conseil canadien de la cooperation et de la mutualite, said in the association’s release.

“Farmers and the industry will benefit from this change, which will simplify the application process and reduce paperwork and other redundancies, while reducing costs.”

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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