Sask. opens farmland ownership review

(Dave Bedard photo)

Saskatchewan has kicked off public consultations for a review of its rules on investment in the province’s farmland.

The consultation period, which runs until Aug. 10, is meant to help the province “understand who should, or should not be, allowed to own farmland in Saskatchewan,” Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said in a release Wednesday.

At issue, specifically, is how many, if any, limits should be placed on farmland ownership by “pension plans, investment trusts, pension plan administrators and foreign investors.”

The consultation includes a survey, available online and in print through provincial ag ministry and Saskatchewan Crop Insurance offices. Letters can also be submitted by mail or email.

Saskatchewan’s Farm Security Act, as amended in 2002, today allows only Canadian residents and 100 per cent Canadian-owned entities to own any more than 10 acres of farmland in the province. The province’s Farm Land Security Board is able to grant exemptions.

The government last month announced it will review its farmland ownership policy and put a pause on acquisition of land holdings by non-family trusts, pension plans and administrators of pension plans while the review is underway.

The province said it wants to hear from Saskatchewan residents, farmers, ranchers and other businesses as well as Canadian investors in its review, which is meant to focus on who should be eligible to own farmland in Saskatchewan — and who should be eligible to finance the purchase of said farmland.

The review will also look at the role of the Farm Land Security Board and the “tools at (the board’s) disposal” to enforce the Farm Security Act.

Farmland values in Saskatchewan have “increased rapidly” in recent years, making farmland a more attractive investment, the province said. Some Canadian pension plans and “other investors” have expressed interest in holding Saskatchewan farmland in their portfolios and partnering with individual farmers.

As of March, pension plans and administrators of pension plans held a total of 140,000 acres of Saskatchewan farmland, the province said.

The level of interest has led to “public discussion” about farm ownership provisions, the Farm Security Act and the province’s “ability to monitor and consistently enforce the rules.”

Some stakeholders, the province said, have also raised concern about Canadians owning farmland “on behalf of non-Canadians” through loans, mortgages or other agreements. –– Network


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