(November 20, 2018) – The National Farmers Union in Manitoba has raised concerns about Manitoba’s Bill 35, the Crown Lands Amendment Act, which alters the method of determining rent and awarding leases for crown land pastures. The NFU calls for true and fair consultation on the issue and recommends the addition of a point system to help young ranchers secure access to crown land pasture leases.
Bill 35 contains two clauses that directly harm to Manitoba’s young cattle farmers and their families. Clauses 7.2(2) b and c, and 7.2(3) allow the establishment of lease fees and pasture rents by auction or tender. The Bill does not include a point system that would consider a farmer’s proximity to the lease, fails to support for young farmers, and does not require bidders to be resident farmers. Bill 35 appears to be designed to maximize land revenues instead of supporting Manitoba agriculture.
Until Bill 35 was passed, Manitoba used a point system that supports family ranching by giving extra points for youth and proximity. The old point system should be updated, not scrapped. Bill 35 changes the rules entirely so that lease prices are based on tenders and auctions, with price the only criterion. This throws young ranchers into competition with out-of-province corporate bidders. Manitoba cattle are already being shut out of Manitoba community pastures by established operations from other provinces that are able to pay a higher price. Now Bill 35 will shut young Manitobans out of crown land leases.
If the goal was to make Manitoba’s Crown Land leasing system more transparent and more efficient, it could have been done in a way that supports our next generation of young ranchers by maintaining a point system and establishing fair rents for Crown land pasture leases. Instead, Bill 35 pushes new and young Manitoba farmers out of the way and facilitates a shift to production by out-of-province corporations.
Bill 35 was rushed through without proper consultation with affected ranch families. The Minister gave less than two days’ notice for hearings on Bill 35 and put them on the Legislative committee agenda at 6 pm Halloween evening The NFU attended and made its concerns known, in spite of the government’s lack of regard for young families. What should have been a fun night turned into something truly horrible for young farm families. The Bill was subsequently passed on November 7.
The National Farmers Union believes that government should support young ranch families. Families have absolutely proven to be the most efficient cow-calf production system due to their hands-on approach, attention to detail and care for their animals. Large-scale, absentee-owned operations simply do not have the same commitment, which is critical to an industry which deals in mother cows and the birth of their calves.
The amendments to the Crown Lands Act made through Bill 35, which bring in a highest bidder scenario, is clearly a government cash grab at the expense of young cattle ranchers and creates yet another barrier in the way of the next generation of Manitoba ranching families. The NFU calls for Bill 35 to be repealed and replaced with a new, clear and transparent point system that will help young ranch families become established.