There was no shortage of issues to debate with 24 resolutions on the table during Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association’s 102nd AGM at Swift Current.
Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart’s launch of the province’s online premises identification (PID) database during his address to open the conference didn’t sway members set against mandatory PID. They narrowly defeated a resolution to support mandatory PID in Saskatchewan. This was in contrast to the vote on a similar resolution at the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association AGM earlier in the year when the majority favoured asking the province to make PID mandatory.
Industry’s Cattle Implementation Plan committee, which has been working on a manageable road map to full traceability since 2011, is aiming to achieve 90 per cent PID in each province/territory by January 2016, regardless of regulations, according to Canadian Cattle Identification Agency chair Pat Burrage’s report to the conference.
SSGA members also took a stand against looking into the possibility of setting up a mandatory per-head levy to create a BSE testing fund. The purpose of the proposed fund brought forward and supported at the SCA meeting would be to encourage participation in the BSE surveillance program to meet Saskatchewan’s target by better compensating producers who submit samples for testing.
Much of SSGA’s work over the past year has revolved through legislative doors in consultation on land security, agricultural drainage, surface rights and livestock dealer regulations.
Two resolutions aimed at finding a balance on farmland ownership policy were defeated. Members don’t like the idea of Saskatchewan’s agricultural land being bought up by institutional investors and non-Canadian entities and are particularly disturbed about purchases by the Canadian Pension Plan fund, which they say pits producers against their own money contributed to the plan. However, they recognize the SSGA’s history is rooted in promoting free market enterprise and that the association’s standing policy supports the right of any Canadian citizen to own land in Saskatchewan. Members also respect the government’s desire to promote Saskatchewan as being open for business and that making the call on farmland ownership will be a tough one. The province created an online survey (now complete) to gather people’s thoughts on the future of agricultural land ownership in the province.
Members are firmly against the Nature Conservancy of Canada and other non-government organizations using public funds from the federal and provincial governments to purchase agricultural land and fully supported a resolution to lobby governments to end funding for this purpose.
They favoured a resolution to limit conservation easements to no more than 25 years on the grounds that easements held in perpetuity devalue property with no consideration given to future needs.
Protecting species at risk has become a prickly topic once again, particularly since Environment Canada issued the greater sage grouse emergency protection order. Members carried resolutions to lobby the Government of Canada to review or change the Species at Risk Act to be less onerous on landowners and land managers as well as to lobby all government ministers necessary to ensure that ranchers who enter into management agreements to provide critical habitat for species at risk are recognized as providing effective protection under the act.
The outcome of all resolutions along with the Ministry of Agriculture’s formal response to ag-related issues are posted on SSGA’s website. New this year are videos of presentations by the many high-profile speakers on the conference theme, “Connecting with Consumers.”
The SSGA board of directors returned its executive for another year during the board meeting following the AGM, June 9 at Swift Current. Doug Gillespie of Neville stays on as president, joined by Shane Jahnke of Gouldtown as first vice, Bill Huber of Lipton as second vice, Helen Finucane of Regina as finance chair and Harold Martens of Swift Current as past president. Stephanie Deg of Weyburn is the new Zone 2 chair replacing Helen Finucane, who was returned as a director at large along with Shane Jahnke, Roy Rutledge of Assiniboia and Kelcy Elford of Caronport. New directors at large are Paula Larson of D’Arcy and Don Peacock of Maple Creek replacing Jason Pollock and Fred Lansdall.