Transitioning of the Canadian Community Pastures Program

Res #: 11-12M
Number: 11
Year: 2012
Midterm: Yes
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture

WHEREAS Agriculture and Agri-food Canada announced that the Community Pastures Program will be phased out over the next six years, creating an opportunity for the Province to take over the pasture management; and

WHEREAS a pasture program under the Provincial Government gives the ability to support the environmental objectives of the program related to the use of marginal lands; the ability to provide equitable access for producers to the community pasture lands; the ability to ensure continued provision of breeding bulls to encourage high quality, long term cattle production; the ability to provide value to taxpayers related to the conservation of these landscapes; and the ability to provide financial performance and sustainability in line with the intent of achieving value for money for taxpayers with relationship to any commercial activities; and

WHEREAS the pastures represent some of the largest contiguous blocks of grasslands in Canada and are examples of functional prairie ecosystems; the pastures contribute to Canada’s commitment to a number of international agreements covering bio-diversity, climate change and protected areas; and

WHEREAS the Province has acknowledged that these pastures should remain as intact grazing units, native rangelands should be preserved and the needs of existing pasture patrons is the first priority; and

WHEREAS the Province recognizes that these pastures are important to wildlife habitat, including species at risk, and for maintaining environmental integrity and diversity of landscape;

BE IT RESOLVED that SARM lobby the Province of Saskatchewan to retain ownership of the federally transitioned pastures and assist with the development of a pasture lands management structure to ensure the pastures continue to serve local producers and communities, and operate on a cost recovery basis.

Response from Honourable Lyle Stewart, Minister of Agriculture:

Saskatchewan producers are proud stewards of the land and have repeatedly proven their commitment to the highest standards of grasslands management. The Saskatchewan government is confident that producers who are currently patrons of federal community pastures will continue to ensure that this land is protected and productive for future generations.

The government is helping to ensure that patron groups will have the opportunity to own or lease their pastures and continue to graze cattle on this land for generations to come. On the recommendation of the Pastures Advisory Committee (where SARM is represented), funding will be made available to patron groups under the Saskatchewan Farm Business Development Initiative for up to 75 per cent of the costs associated with establishing legal entities and the development of business plans, up to a maximum of $80,000. In addition, funding will be available for up to 75 per cent of the costs for patrons to improve their business management skills, up to a maximum of $40,000. Pasture patron groups are eligible for a maximum benefit of up to $120,000 per group.

The government and patron groups are also working closely to reinforce protections for native prairie within federal community pastures. Pastures will be transitioned to patron groups as contiguous blocks. Producers themselves have proactively called for conservation easements that will prohibit the breaking or draining of native prairie. Saskatchewan farmers and ranchers have repeatedly demonstrated their dedication to the land with virtually universal compliance with conservation easements that already protect thousands of acres across the province. Legislation, regulation, and policies protecting species at risk will continue to be enforced by conservation officers.

The government understands that Saskatchewan producers themselves are widely recognized as the best managers of prairie grassland. Further, the provincial government simply does not have the capacity to more than double its community pasture management. Therefore, the Saskatchewan government will continue to work with patron groups that are preparing to take over their community pastures.