Saskatchewan agriculture minister says farmland sale not a money grab

Saskatchewn Party feels land is better left in the hands of farmers

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart says an offer to sell leased farmland to producers is not a money grab.

Stewart says the Saskatchewan Party campaigned on selling occupied agricultural Crown land in 2007, because the party believes it's better to have the land in the hands of farmers or ranchers.

"This isn't anything new. It's not about budget. It's not a fire sale,'' Stewart said Tuesday.

"It's trying to get the land back in the hands of the people that should own it.''

The government told farmers last week that they'll get a 15 per cent discount if they buy property they are currently leasing between now and March 31. The discounts falls to 10 per cent for the remainder of 2016 and five per cent the following year.

If farmers don't buy the land, lease rates are to increase by 15 per cent next year and 30 per cent in 2017.

Stewart said it's a good time to buy because interest rates are low. He realizes not every farmer will be able to get together a down payment, but it could be an opportunity for others.

"After eight years of relative prosperity and good prices, most producers would be in a position where they can come up with enough of a down payment to purchase the land, particularly when the land is discounted in price.''

The Ministry of Agriculture estimates more than 242,000 hectares will be sold.

The Opposition NDP acknowledges that the land has been for sale for several years. But New Democrat Cathy Sproule said the government is giving farmers an ultimatum.

"Farmers are very upset about being forced to either buy the land or pay higher rent. Others are upset that this government is selling off valuable public assets at fire-sale prices,'' said Sproule.

"And the common theme in all these messages is that people recognize that this government is just desperate for money.''

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