Prairies? community pastures all to stay open in 2012


Plans to move Prairie community pastures out of federal management over the next six years won?t affect any operations this season, the federal government has pledged.

"No pastures will be affected this grazing season and we will work in collaboration with our provincial partners and with all stakeholders to make sure the transition away from federally-operated pastures is as smooth as possible for producers," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a release Wednesday.

"This change will create a great opportunity for provinces, stakeholders or those who use the land to take over pasture management."

The federal government?s plan to get itself out of the pasture business emerged last week following the release of the 2012 federal budget, in a list of substantial cuts and reorganizations within Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

One of AAFC?s moves will see its Agri-Environment Services Branch, which operates the community pastures, merged into a new Science and Technology branch.

AAFC has now informed "all unions, management and staff" of its plan for the pastures, in which 10 pastures will be divested in 2013, followed by additional pastures each year until "full divestiture is achieved in 2018."

Grazing and breeding services on remaining pastures are to be maintained throughout the transition period and pasture patrons "will receive as much notice as possible," the government said.

The six-year stretch is expected to allow time for provinces, municipalities, pastures users and "other stakeholders" to help manage the transition.

The current community pasture system includes 61 sites in Saskatchewan, 24 in Manitoba and two in Alberta. The Manitoba Co-operator, in its April 19 edition, quoted a Public Service Alliance of Canada spokesman as saying 10 of those Manitoba pastures would be closed over the next three years.

"We?ll have to talk to the producers who use the pastures" about the sites? future use, Manitoba Beef Producers general manager Cam Dahl told the Co-operator?s Allan Dawson.

"We want to make sure this land stays in agriculture use and that the producers who were using it still have access to it in some form," Dahl said. "That?s going to take some consultation and some time."

"Capacity and expertise"

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