Hundreds of concerned producers gathered at the Ste. Rose Community Hall to discuss the new changes regarding crown land leases.

The government of Manitoba introduced new changes to crown land leases, effective as of October 1st. Some of those changes include: all new leases are 15 years long and non-renewable, allocations of new leases will be determined by auction results, and rental rates are to be based on cattle prices. The rental rate system will result in producers paying, in some cases, more than double the amount they are paying now.

Another change is that ranchers have to pay their total amount of rent owed within thirty days, otherwise their leases could be considered void.

After hearing these changes, the producers in the room became very emotional. Some producers voiced their concerns that the farms that their families have worked for generations could be lost easily.

Others shared the struggle that young farmers and newly re-located producers face in trying to start an operation on the guarantee of only 15 years.

In the room of nearly 400 producers, were some delegates from Manitoba Beef Producers, including General Manager Carson Callum. Callum stressed that ranchers were not alone in their opposition to the changes; he added that MBP had met with Ag Minister Ralph Eichler that morning.

In that meeting, MBP proposed the government give current leaseholders the first right to refuse, meaning that if they maintained the conditions of the lease, and they wanted to continue using the land, they would have the choice to do so.

Ideas of how to fight the changes bounced around the room, ranging from picketing at the legislative building to pursuing legal action.

Producers that doubled as nurses, bankers, and real estate agents all shared their concerns that producers losing the use of crown lands, would result in economic disaster for communities that rely on farmers. They stressed that without farmers, hospitals and schools would shut down.

One of the most immediate courses of action the group took was the signing of a petition.

Most of the leased agricultural crown land is in the Parkland.