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Leaseholders feel ignored over Crown lands consultation

Forage leaseholders say their concerns were never taken seriously

[UPDATE: Oct. 28, 2019] Ranchers say their concerns were ignored while the province drafted its new Crown land lease regulations.

Leaseholders at an Oct. 15 meeting in Ste. Rose du Lac criticized the government for what they say was a lack of consultation. Few leaseholders in the room were directly consulted, they said.

One rancher, Shelley Dyck of Ste. Rose du Lac, said she had written at least six letters of concern to various members of the provincial government, but received no response.

A group of ranchers had also raised concerns in February 2019. Dale Myhre of Crane River said they met with their local MLAs, expressing worry that losing unit transfers would devastate the value of their farms.

The province has previously said that it consulted heavily with the beef sector and with agriculture in general, including consultations with the Manitoba Beef Producers, Manitoba Bison Association and Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association.

Manitoba Beef Producers initially welcomed news of an open auction in 2018. It had previously argued that the points system was not transparent, difficult to understand and offered no price discovery.

The new regulations reflect some of its priorities, although it says other details have missed the mark.

“There’s definitely some misses in terms of our position from our consultation paper that we submitted in April,” MBP general manager Carson Callum said.

Producers asked over 200 of their fellow leaseholders who supported the changed lease system by a show of hands during an Oct. 15 meeting in Ste. Rose du Lac. No hands were raised.

Ranchers lobbed various criticisms at the government during the Oct. 15 meeting, including that the government deliberately withheld details of the regulations until after its re-election.

At press time, former Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler* had not responded to requests for comment. (Blaine Pedersen was given the agriculture and resource development portfolio role in a cabinet shuffle on Oct. 23.)

The NDP has also criticized the government’s Crown land changes.

“There is a disconnect between the government and the people and there is mistrust too,” Agriculture Critic Diljeet Brar said.

The province hosted two public meetings Oct. 15 and Oct. 17 in light of the backlash. Provincial staff would be reporting producer feedback to the minister from those meetings, attendees were told.

Eichler has also said that staff will attend the upcoming Manitoba Beef Producers’ district meetings starting at the end of October.

*UPDATE: The article was updated to indicate Ralph Eichler as the former Agriculture Minister.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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