Five federally-operated community pastures in Manitoba will be under provincial management at the end of the 2013 grazing season, under a deal announced Friday.
The agreement, now being finalized, covers the Westbourne and Lakeview pastures, north of Portage la Prairie on the west side of Lake Manitoba; the Gardenton and Pansy pastures, south of Steinbach; and the Sylvan Dale pasture in the Interlake, near Arborg.
The agreement will also see the pastures' management by federal agriculture department (AAFC) staff extended for another year, to the end of 2013, on those five pastures.
Ottawa's plan to shed its management of Prairie community pastures was revealed in April after the release of the 2012 federal budget.
Ray Armbruster, president of Manitoba Beef Producers, said in a separate release that starting the transition after the 2013 grazing season "will give adequate time (for cattle producer groups) to develop and implement an alternative administrative structure."
MBP noted it has formed a steering committee including its own directors plus the leaders from each of the pastures' patron advisory committees (PACs).
That committee is to lead the development of an "alternative producer-led structure" to administer community pastures in Manitoba, MBP said. "We are confident the new administrative structure, led by producers, will be in place to facilitate an orderly transfer of these first five pastures to transition away from federal administration," steering committee chair Barry Lowes said. The model being developed by the steering committee will be used to administer all of the Manitoba pastures as they transfer out from AAFC management, Armbruster added.
The federal and Saskatchewan governments are working on a similar agreement for pastures slated for the "first round" of federal divestment -- also including federal management through to November 2013.
The first group of Saskatchewan pastures to be divested hasn't yet been announced. The first round was expected to include 10 pastures across the Prairies in total.
"Our goal is to ensure patrons are able to continue using these lands and we want to give them every opportunity to have input about the transition of their pastures," Saskatchewan's ag minister Lyle Stewart said in a separate release.
A separate advisory committee of Saskatchewan cattle industry leaders and producers has recommended a transition framework, in which pasture patron groups get the opportunity to own and operate each pasture, and in which each pasture is maintained as a complete block.
"We have had numerous inquiries by patron groups who are interested in owning and operating these pastures," Stewart said. "I encourage all pasture patron groups to look into forming legal entities or grazing co-operatives in order to transition these pastures into their hands."
Stewart noted talks are ongoing with the federal government and Farm Credit Canada on financing options for patron groups wanting to buy the divested pastures.
"This transfer is a great opportunity for those with a more direct stake in the usage of the land to take over the pasture management," federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Friday.
The one-year extension on the affected pastures' management by AAFC staff "will give Manitoba and Saskatchewan the time needed to further consult pasture users and others in preparation for managing these lands."
The federal government's plan to shed its role in community pastures is spread out over six years, into 2018.
Prairies' community pastures all to stay open in 2012,
April 18, 2012