Sask. pasture patrons get startup money

Groups backed for business classes, planning, incorporation costs

The rancher groups tasked with taking over Saskatchewan’s federal community pastures can get up to $120,000 per group toward business training and the costs of setting up new corporations.

"This funding will help patron groups with the business costs associated with assuming operation of these pastures and we will continue working hand-in-hand with them throughout this process," provincial Ag Minister Lyle Stewart said in a release Thursday.

The federal government announced in April it would remove itself from the community pasture business as part of a list of substantial budget cuts and reorganizations within Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Pasture patron groups, the governments said Thursday, now 1may get funding for up to 75 per cent of the costs associated with establishing legal entities and developing business plans — to a maximum of $80,000.

Funds will also be available for up to 75 per cent of the costs for patrons to improve their business management skills, to a maximum $40,000 per patron group. In all, each pasture patron group is eligible for a maximum benefit of up to $120,000.

The funding will flow through the Saskatchewan Farm Business Development Initiative — a program backed by the federal/provincial Growing Forward ag policy funding framework.

The province’s advisory committee on the disposition of the federal pastures had recommended this particular funding. "We know this transition will require some business expertise and this funding will go a long way to helping ensure a smooth transition," Saskatchewan Stock Growers president Harold Martens said in the governments’ release.

"We have heard from many pasture patrons who are looking to move forward with establishing a business model and this funding will assist them in that process," David Marit, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, said in the same release.

"Just not affordable"

However, a group opposed to the federal government’s divestment of the pastures ripped Thursday’s funding announcement as a "simple bribe."

The group, based online at ProtectThePrairie.ca, alleged the money will do little to address what it views as flaws in the government’s planned transition.

At market rates, "the huge price tag for that land is just not affordable for most producers," Milton Dyck of the Agriculture Union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada — which represents the federal pastures’ staff — said in a separate release.

Dyck’s union, along with the Saskatchewan Environmental Society and the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, has backed the campaign calling for "balanced use, conservation and environmental protection guarantees" on the divestment of the pastures.

The two governments, he said, also offer no suggestions on how the patron groups might fund the management of the land to "present-day standards," nor on any "environmental and conservation considerations."

Related story:
Prairies’ community pastures all to stay open in 2012, April 18, 2012

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