I received a disturbing message today from someone in the ag sector who wishes to remain anonymous.
Here it is, with identifying bits cropped out:
It has come to my attention that investment corporations outside of Saskatchewan have approached the patrons to purchase the land immediately after sale for approx. 2x the province's sale price, per quarter. So to summarize,, investment conglomerates have asked the patrons to make the purchase, even if they don't want to, as they will buy it directly after from the patrons at approx. 2x the purchase price, ~$80,000 per 160 acres. Real estate agents have been approaching the patrons as so the investment groups can keep some distance until after the sales.
In addition, I have also been advised that upon the sale the patrons make, they can request to have the conservation easements lifted if it is hindering a sale (to any investors as noted above). Which is totally legal, and the patrons are aware of this loophole as are the investment groups.
Lastly, patrons have indicated that some of the land will be tilled upon sale, as the cost of any law suit related to the no-till conservation easement will not compare to the potential profitability from breaking the land. In addition the SARA loses teeth on private land, and is rarely enforced in Saskatchewan in this regard.
It is also my opinion the province will not enforce the easements, as is evident throughout Saskatchewan now.
This information is from patrons, I would expect it to be accurate. You may have heard this already.
Please do not pass my name along.
If this is legit, and I think it is, our fears of outside interests buying up the pastures and ploughing them to grow crops are justified. If patron groups flip the pastures to make a quick buck and then the new owners one way or another blow off the no-plough conservation easement, the pastures will be destroyed. Who would these out of province investors be? Well, the Nillson Bros. in Alberta (of XL Foods' e.coli fame) are in the market for a lot of land. They might like having giant pastures in Saskatchewan they can use any way they want to strengthen their position in the beef industry. Even worse, CNOOC of China, the same corporation that wants to control Canada's oil industry and buy Nexen, is said to be interested in the pastures now. Rumours? Who knows, but if these nightmares come to pass, every cattleman and anyone who cares about prairie landscapes and ecology will be sorry we did not speak out against it soon enough.
No matter who ends up owning the pastures, the conservation easements will do nothing to protect them. I talked last night with a retired pasture supervisor who managed 13 pastures under the PFRA system. This person told me that the conservation easements are worthless. "If the land is sold much of it will be ploughed. No one will monitor to see that it isn't. And once it is broken, there is nothing you can do to bring it back."