Saskatchewan farmland is staying in the hands of Saskatchewan people.
After consultations across the province, the government has made official amendments to the farm ownership laws. It means large trusts like pension groups can’t own farmland here anymore.
“The people of Saskatchewan provided very clear direction during the consultation process,” Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said in a news release. “The legislation reflects the views of Saskatchewan residents, provides clarity around farmland ownership and gives the Farm Land Security Board the tools it needs to enforce the rules.”
The amendments include:
- Making pension plans, administrators of pension fund assets and larger trusts ineligible to buy farmland;
- Defining “having an interest in farmland” to include any type of interest or benefit (i.e. capital appreciation), either directly or indirectly, that is normally associated with ownership of the land; and
- When financing a purchase of farmland, all financing must be through a financial institution registered to do business in Canada, or a Canadian citizen.
Given that Saskatchewan is a province built on those from outside who came to farm here, those exemptions don’t change.
“We can still make exemptions for farm families that come from other parts of the world that want to purchase farm land in Saskatchewan and actually want to operate it themselves,” Stewart said.
Provinces like Ontario don’t have such laws in place, but Manitoba and Alberta do. Stewart says it puts us on par with our neighbours.
He says he doesn’t believe regulations around farm ownership send the message that Saskatchewan isn’t open for business.
“You know it hasn’t been a limiting factor on our economy to date, and I don’t see why that would change,” he noted.
In addition, the Farm Land Security Board (FLSB) will receive new and expanded authority to enforce the legislation, including:
- At the discretion of the FLSB, any person purchasing farmland must complete a statutory declaration;
- Placing the onus to prove compliance with the legislation on the person purchasing the land;
- Increasing fines for being in contravention of the legislation from $10,000 to $50,000 for individuals and from $100,000 to $500,000 for corporations; and
- Authorizing the FLSB to impose administrative penalties to a maximum of $10,000.
The regulations were announced in October but have now been put into law.
The Ministry of Agriculture conducted consultations on farmland ownership from May 20 through to August 10, with more than 3,200 people participating.