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Compensating Man. farmers for farmland preservation

Compensating Man. farmers for farmland preservation

KAP outlined this as one of its resolutions during its AGM

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

A Manitoba farm organization wants producers to be fairly compensated for farmland they’re unable to work because of existing laws.

During its 2020 annual general meeting in February in Winnipeg, Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) passed 19 resolutions, one of which asks the provincial government to “ensure there is enough compensation in place to create an incentive for farmers to preserve endangered species on farmland in a timely manner.”

The resolution stems from a Manitoba producer who broke the law while working his field.

In May 2019, Manitoba Conservation authorities charged Tobias Hershberger, who farms about 160 acres near Stuartburn, under the province’s Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act after finding he disturbed the western prairie fringed orchid.

The flower is a provincially and nationally endangered wildflower that grows in Manitoba and seven U.S. states. The flower’s population in Manitoba makes up about half of its total global numbers.

The officials discovered Hershberger had ignored a stop-work order in September 2018 that mandated he leave about 10 acres of land undisturbed to allow the wildflower to grow.

In December 2019, Hershberger plead guilty to disturbing the flower and received a $1,000 fine. The charge carries a maximum penalty of $50,000 or six months in prison.

The work order would prevent that land from ever being farmed, Hershberger’s defence lawyer Grant Driedger said.

“It is one private individual or one family that has been forced to bear this burden,” he said, CBC reported. “Really this amounts to expropriation: the stop-work order is indefinite, so it continues as long as the flower grows.”

KAP wants to ensure farmers are taken care of if provincial laws prohibit ag practices on some lands.

If government is going to put restrictions on land farmers can produce crops on, then government should also be responsible for compensating farmers for leaving mandated cropland undisturbed, said Bill Campbell, president of KAP.

“There are restrictions where tilling and earth moving are not allowed for them to practice farming,” Campbell told Farms.com. “The farmer purchased the land without knowing the orchid was there and now they’re told they can’t farm that land.

“Those acres are rendered useless and the farmer can’t use them to run their business but now they’re supposed to look after that flower. That’s why we’re looking to the provincial government to provide some compensation.”

KAP plans to bring this issue up with Premier Brian Pallister’s government when they meet in the spring, Campbell said.

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