Province steps in with funding for community pasture transition

Kostyshyn announces funding for three-year pilot project aimed at keeping gates open at 24 community pastures

The Manitoba government is providing $1 million over three years in transitional funding to transfer land management responsibilities to the Association of Manitoba Community Pastures (AMCP), a non-profit group of pasture patrons.

AMCP and the province will work together to ensure the environmental benefits of managed grazing on community pastures is maintained, said Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development Ron Kostyshyn.

The transfer of management to the AMCP will ensure the long-term health and sustainability of these important agricultural and environmental spaces, said Kostyshyn, who has ranched near Ethelbert for 35 years.

The transition to co-operative-style management required an operating loan guarantee from the province, as well as an injection of cash to allow the new management to buy, rent or lease necessary equipment for running the pastures.

Cost recovery

Once fully operational, it is expected that the pastures will be run on a cost-recovery basis supported by grazing fees paid by patrons, he said.

“The connection between environmental stewardship and sustainable agriculture is clear in Manitoba’s community pastures, which is why it’s critical to continue to maintain these natural landscapes,” he said.

“These pastures have been an important community resource for decades and we are pleased to begin a new chapter that will continue with responsible land management.”

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A provincial spokesperson added that the funds would include the startup and ongoing operational costs of the pilot project as well as related expenses, like equipment, needed to manage the pastures.

AMCP will become responsible for land management on up to 10 pastures in 2014, with others transitioning over time.

There are 24 community pastures, totalling 400,000 acres, located across Manitoba. About 85 per cent of the land is owned by the province and the rest by 11 municipalities.

The federal government had previously provided land management services for 10 community pastures in Manitoba, first under the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act, then later via the Agri-Environment Services Branch. But in 2012, federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced that Ottawa would gradually step away from the program over six years.

Barry Lowes, AMCP chair, said that keeping the pastures open is important because it offers new entrants into the cattle business and important leg up.

“Community pastures help young farmers who may not have any land of their own to raise livestock and get started in agriculture,” said Lowes.

“Community pastures provide wildlife habitat, protect and sustain water supplies, and result in many other environmental benefits,” said Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh, in a press release.

The pastures will continue to be available for First Nations, Métis and Aboriginal communities to carry out traditional and cultural pursuits. Producers using community pastures will continue to pay grazing fees consistent with market rates.

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