WHEREAS currently the Department of Public Lands, under the Ministry of Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP), manage the use and operation of farm development leases and agricultural leases; and
WHEREAS Alberta Agriculture and Forestry would be better to adapted to manage the lease land as their expertise in agricultural production would give stronger representation as to the needs of producers; and
WHEREAS the current policies and practices utilized by the AEP do not account for the unique nature of agriculture, and frequency in which the market changes, thus effecting the financial abilities of producers to operate; and
WHEREAS more direct control from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry would allow the policies and procedures to be adapted in a more timely manner minimizing the negative effects on producers;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that Alberta Environment and Parks transfer the management of farm development leases and agricultural leases to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Farm development leases are currently managed by Department of Public Lands under the Ministry of Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP). Under the current management practice farm development leases are leased for 10 years terms, with a 5 year review. At this time lease rates are adjusted based on market current market value. The most recent assessments were done at seven years, two full years overdue. This caused for major increases to lease rates in the region.
The assessment does not take into consideration environmental factors that affect the producers. The problem with this type of approach is that most Crown leases are in marginal areas which would not otherwise be suited for farming. Many leases are in areas that flood from year to year, in some instances over ninety percent of the usable land in under water. The current policies do not address this issue and producers are charged the full acreage rate, whether the land is useable or not. Forage production is also overlooked as land production varies from quarter to quarter and the assessments can be derived for upward of 10km away from the lease site.
Another factor overlooked by AEP is that comparing private lease land and Crown Llease land is not a direct comparison, as there are restrictions set in place on lease land that would not otherwise be placed on private leases. AEP has limited the ability to clear brush, apply herbicide, develop drainage, or install sensible fencing designs to further help efficiency thus lowering the production potential. Best management practices are not taken into account. Requests to control weeds and improve the productivity of the lease land are often delayed to the point the land is completely consumed by noxious weeds. In many cases these leases are near or part of environmentally sensitive areas and if immediate action had been taken the impacts to the environment could have been substantially deceased.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba have both defined agricultural leases and now manage them under their ministries of agriculture, as they saw the need to have a more direct role in the mange practices. Saskatchewan has implemented the use of field agrologists, to help determine more accurate land production and thus helping calculate lease rates. Annual reviews are implemented with the producer having the ability to dispute lease rates with in the current season, based on economic and environment factors.
The agenda of AEP and Agriculture and Forestry are very similar with regards to the protection of the province’s natural environment, the difference resides in the way each ministry mitigates the impact to the environment. To have AEP apply a natural only approach to an environment that is by no means a natural ecosystem is not only impractical but impossible. If lands are to be used for agriculture, then management practices must be such that producers can improve productivity while controlling the impact on the environment. The ability to manage the land in a timely manner would not only increase productivity, but reduces the spread of noxious and prohibited noxious weeds in the surrounding environment. If we have deemed this land for agricultural use, then the ministry with the strongest connection to agriculture, Agriculture and Forestry should manage these leases.
6-15S: Management of Farm Development and Agricultural Leases
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development transfer management of farm development leases and agricultural leases to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Agriculture and Forestry: Agricultural stakeholder concerns regarding the ministry responsible for the management of farm development leases, cultivation permits, and other agricultural leases on Alberta’s public land have been previously raised with the Government of Alberta through letters and Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties resolutions.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) has previously responded to this resolution indicating that transferring either partial (only farm development leases and cultivation permits) or all of the administration of Alberta’s public land management and disposition structure to AF from Alberta Environment and Parks (EP) would require significant changes to current government structure (i.e. the transfer of the public lands and range management staff from EP to AF). It would also require either amendments to the Public Lands Act and Public Lands Administration Regulation (PLAR) to transfer the responsibility for agricultural dispositions to AF or the acceptance by AF of the responsibility to administer and manage a number of non?agricultural leases under the PLAR, such as those provided for recreation or energy purposes on public lands.
Environment and Parks: The Government of Alberta is not considering transferring responsibility for agricultural public land. EP will continue to work with AF so that Albertans benefit from public land.
Transferring either partial (only Farm Development Leases and Cultivation Permits) or all of the administration of Alberta’s public land management and disposition structure to AF would require significant and costly changes to current government structure (i.e., the transfer of the public lands and range management staff from EP to AF).
The transfer of responsibilities would also require amendments to the Public Lands Act and Public Lands Administration Regulation (PLAR); transferring the responsibility of agricultural dispositions to AF or the acceptance by AF of the responsibility to administer and manage a number of non-agricultural leases under PLAR, such as those provided for recreation or energy purposes on public lands.
The Government of Alberta response to this resolution indicates that no consideration is being given to transferring management of farm development leases from Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) to Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF), mainly due to the fact that it would necessitate a significant shift in government structure and existing legislation.
While the AAMDC appreciates these administrative challenges, the current AEP responsibility is viewed as insufficient by AAMDC members, as the agricultural expertise is not housed in AEP. While the short-term administrative difficulties of such a shift may be significant, the AAMDC believes that the long-term benefits of the shift would be significant for agricultural producers and rural municipalities. This resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met and the AAMDC will continue to advocate on this issue.