NFU Submission to Saskatchewan Government Consultation on Farmland Ownership

Saskatchewan members of the National Farmers Union (NFU) are concerned about the trend towards increasing ownership of farmland in this province by farmland investors. We are pleased that the Government of Saskatchewan shares our concern regarding implications of investor ownership of farmland and is seeking the input of Saskatchewan’s people on this important topic.
 
The NFU is a non-partisan, nation-wide, democratic organization made up of thousands of farm families from across Canada who produce a wide variety of commodities. The NFU advocates for policies designed to raise net farm incomes and promotes a food system that is built on a foundation of financially-viable family farms which produce high-quality, healthy, safe food.  The NFU also encourages environmentally-sensitive practices that will protect our soil, water and other natural resources and promotes social and economic justice for food producers and all citizens.
 
In 2010, the NFU produced a report called Losing Our Grip: How a Corporate Farmland Buy-up, Rising Farm Debt, and Agribusiness Financing of Inputs Threaten Family Farms and Food Sovereignty.  In 2015 we updated and expanded that study. In Losing Our Grip - 2015 Update we confirm that trends identified five years ago have intensified. Our research shows that compared with 2010 there are now more farmland investment companies active in Saskatchewan, and they have larger holdings. These companies obtain a financial return in two ways – as cash rent from farmer tenants and by holding land for eventual sale at a higher price. Under these circumstances, the future buyers will not be farmers who work the land, but other investment companies and institutional investors such as mutual funds, limited partnership funds and pension funds. Both the size and price of farmland investor holdings are far beyond what even a large Saskatchewan farmer could pay. Every acre purchased by these investment companies represents an acre lost to ownership by the people who live and work here and their descendants.
 
If land ownership legislation is changed to permit foreign ownership of Saskatchewan farmland, non-Canadian companies and individuals would soon obtain control of our farmland by out-bidding both farmers and Canadian investors. Under today’s law, Canadian-owned investment companies are legally buying up Saskatchewan farmland and transforming our farm population from land owners to tenant farmers. If the legislation remains unchanged the current trend will continue, and perhaps accelerate. The NFU, therefore, recommends that the farmland ownership law be amended to restrict ownership to individuals who are either residents of Saskatchewan or incorporated farming operations (including co-operatives) owned by individuals who reside in Saskatchewan.
 
Saskatchewan should also consider limiting the maximum size of land holdings permitted, similar to Prince Edward Island’s law, with a maximum acreage that reflects Saskatchewan’s agricultural practices.  A maximum acreage limit would promote the buying and selling of farmland among farmers according to their needs and priorities, and prevent undue concentration of ownership through accumulation of land by the wealthiest of buyers.
 
 
Respectfully submitted by:
National Farmers Union, Region 6 (Saskatchewan)
July 15, 2015
 
NOTE - The Saskatchewan government's farmland ownership online consultation process is open until August 10, 2015.
 
Saskatchewan Farmland Ownership Summary of Results from Public Consultations October 7, 2015
All results of Saskatchewan Farmland Ownership Consultations
 
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Farmland Owner Executive Summary.pdf323.81 KB