The Saskatchewan Government has made patrons of federal community pastures the priority after the Canadian Government announced plans in the spring of 2012 to wind down the program and transfer the land back to the provinces. The community pastures will be transferred to the provinces and to patron-controlled operations by 2018.
Throughout the summer of 2012, the province consulted with federal pasture patrons on the transition.
In October 2012, Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart announced the first 10 federal community pastures to be transferred for the 2014 grazing season.
In November 2012, Minister Stewart announced funding to help pasture patron groups prepare to assume operation of federal community pastures. Pasture patron groups are eligible for a maximum benefit of up to $120,000 per group for business planning and skills training. Funding is provided under the Saskatchewan Farm Business Development Initiative.
In March 2013, Minister Stewart announced further options to help federal community pasture patrons assume operation of their community pasture. Patron groups have the opportunity to either lease or purchase their pasture. If a patron group chooses to lease, the provincial government offers a 15 year lease term. The provincial government also provides use of fixed assets to patrons at no cost, provided patrons perform regular maintenance. Patrons also have the option to purchase these improvements at zero per cent interest over the term of their lease, if they wish to do so in order to gain equity.
The provincial government is not be taking over federal pastures, instead continuing to operate them as community pastures. Saskatchewan producers are the best people to manage grazing land and the province does not have the capacity to take over these pastures; that is why we are transitioning this land to pasture patrons.
Patron groups will have the option to lease pastures rather than purchase. Though purchase is the best option for patron groups, as this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for producers to take over full ownership and operation of this land, we realize that full purchase may not work in every situation so leasing is also an option.
The Saskatchewan Government is not selling the pastures only to the highest bidder. Patrons are the priority and we are committed to working with them through every step of this process to lease or purchase their pastures and balancing that by using market values to make sure the interests of all taxpayers are taken into account.
Land with native prairie is sold with no-break and no-drain easements. These easements will make sure this land is protected and productive for future generations. It will also ensure the land is available for grazing.
The Wildlife Habitat Protection Act (WHPA) applies to about 9,000 acres of land within federal community pastures. Land under WHPA may be for sale under certain conditions.
The remaining 19 pastures will transition to the province in the spring of 2018.