WHEREAS currently the Department of Public Lands, under the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), manage the use and operation of farm development leases and agricultural leases; and
WHEREAS Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development would be better adapted to manage the lease land as their expertise in agricultural production would give stronger representation to the needs of producers; and
WHEREAS the current policies and practices utilized by ESRD do not account for the unique nature of agriculture and the frequency in which the market changes, thus effecting the financial ability of producers to operate; and
WHEREAS more direct control from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development would allow policies and procedures to 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 Sustainable Resource Development transfer management of farm development leases and agricultural leases to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Farm development leases are currently managed by the Department of Public Lands under the Ministry Environment and Sustainable Resources (ESRD). Under the current management practice, Farm Development Leases are leased for 10 years terms, with a five year review. At this time lease rates are adjusted based on current market value. The most recent assessments were done at seven years, two full years overdue. This caused major increases to lease rates in the region.
The assessment does not consider 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 is 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 10 kilometers away from the lease site.
Another factor overlooked by ESRD is that comparing private lease land and crown lease 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. ESRD has limited the ability to clear brush, develop drainage, or install sensible fencing designs to further help efficiency thus lowering the production potential. No consideration is made for better farming practices.
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 management 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 within the current season, based on economic and environment factors.
The agendas of ESRD and ARD are very different and thus producers need to have representation on a provincial level from a ministry that shares the same goals and objective as Alberta’s agricultural producers.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Agriculture and Forestry: Agriculture and Forestry recognizes the concerns expressed by the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties and its members regarding the management of these disposition types by Environment and Parks (EP). However, returning either partial or all administration of Alberta’s public land management back to Agriculture and Forestry would require significant changes to current government structure.
EP’s legislation allows for seven types of public land dispositions intended for agriculture purposes. Based on the information contained in the background to this resolution, the disposition types referred to are the Farm Development Lease (FDL) and Cultivation Permit (CUP). These disposition types are addressed by sections 85 through 90 of the Public Lands Administration Regulation, and are managed by qualified EP agrologists.
As of April 2014, over 7,600 public land dispositions, covering close to 8.8 million acres of public land, were issued for agricultural purposes. Of these, there were fewer than 820 FDL and CUP dispositions, covering an area of close to 112,000 acres, or less than two per cent of the total public land that was under some form of agricultural disposition (i.e. cultivation and/or grazing). Approximately 93 per cent of this area (104,000 acres) was specifically under the 643 FDL dispositions issued by EP.
Environment and Parks: The Government of Alberta is not considering transferring responsibility of agricultural leases from Environment and Parks to Agriculture and Forestry. Any such transfer would be costly and require significant changes to the organizational makeup of both ministries.
The Government of Alberta supports an integrated approach to public land management. As such, farm development and agriculture leases are managed to meet goals of sustainable management. To help achieve this, Environment and Parks regularly consults with its clients and with Agriculture and Forestry about policies that impact agricultural producers.
Environment and Parks has professional agrologists with training and experience in managing agricultural dispositions. These staff work collaboratively with holders of these dispositions to find adaptive and practical strategies that help to meet the sustainable management goals.
This year, Environment and Parks is planning to review Farm Development rental rates in consultation with Agriculture and Forestry.
The government response indicates no willingness to transfer management of farm development leases and agricultural leases from Alberta Environment and Parks to Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. Although the AAMDC appreciates the fact that the government of Alberta takes an integrated approach to public land management that involves collaboration between Environment and Parks and Agriculture and Forestry staff, AAMDC members believe that the agriculture expertise necessary to understand how market changes impact the financial ability of producers to operate is best understood by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. As a result, this resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met.