Current Issues

BILL 44 – Passed with No Amendments

BILL 44 obtained a third reading with no amendments and received royal assent May 2017. Read more at – Bill 44

BILL 44 – Hansard Notes – 2nd Reading

Minister Moe is moving ahead with BILL 44. Refer to – Hansard Notes – Mar 6th on the Bill 44 2nd Reading, where the points on Bill 44 are recorded on pages 14 through 20. Bill 44 focuses specifically on removal of the formal complaint system, prohibition against litigation in respect to pre-1981 drainage works and an increase in fines under the Environmental Management Protection Act (EMPA).

BILL 44 – More Information from the Ministry of Environment

SaskFSA met with Minister Moe on Jan 10th to discuss and clarify concerns regarding BILL 44. The Ministry of Environment issued the following information after the meeting – MOE-BILL 44. More specific information to follow after our next meeting scheduled for Jan 24th.

BILL 44 – An Act to Amend the Water Security Agency Act

These are the specific details the WSA press release fails to mention – BILL 44. As an AG producer of Saskatchewan, these legislation changes affect you and should be of great concern. Contact any member of the SaskFSA Board of Directors for more information.

PROPOSED LEGISLATION CHANGES To Amend the Water Security Agency Act

Amendments to The Water Security Agency Act were announced by Minister Moe Nov 15, 2016. The WSA press release fails to mention the specific details that will directly impact AG producers – WSA News Releases Nov 2016 – Legislative Changes Support AG Water Management Strategy/. Specific amendments and concerns are outlined in the following document. If these legislation changes are of concern to you, contact any member of the SaskFSA Board of Directors and your local MLA. Read More…

NEW SK AG Drainage Regulations – Significant Obstacles

Several key components of the NEW SK AG Water Management Strategy as of November 2016 will have severe negative repercussions on the Saskatchewan agriculture producer, and ultimately the GDP of Saskatchewan as outlined in the following document. If these are of concern to you, contact any member of the SaskFSA Board of Directors and your local MLA. Read More…

Agriculture on the Political Agenda

Agriculture is one of the main pillars of the Saskatchewan economy. Saskatchewan represents 43 per cent of Canada’s farmland, totaling more than 60 million acres. Saskatchewan’s agriculture industry is a leader in keeping Saskatchewan strong through managing our land and water resources to economically and sustainably grow safe food for the world.  However, there are some serious challenges in this equation that need to be addressed as they directly impact the producer’s ability to farm efficiently, to earn an income, support their family and support the economy of the province. Of particular importance is the issue of antiagriculture groups pushing for legislation to convert productive farmland into wetlands, predominantly in the prairie pothole region (PPR). This also directly correlates to responsible surface water management. Whether it be agricultural, industrial or urban drainage or a conservation group that leaves land to abandonment which then encroaches on productive agricultural land. We are all responsible and we can all work together.  Read More…

Other Stakeholders

The core of the new drainage regulations is based on responsible agricultural water management where it is the producers’ responsibility to design, construct, operate and permit the drainage works within an efficient and risk-based regulatory system to minimize negative impacts. We support this concept 100%. There are however other factors, besides agricultural drainage, that affect flood control equally that should be considered for integration into the 25 Year Saskatchewan Water Security Plan. This November SaskFSA submitted a brief to Saskatchewan government representatives and Water Security officials titled “Other Stakeholders” asking them to consider the role that naturally drained land and habitat land play in flood mitigation. Read More…

The NEW Approach to Agricultural Water Management in Saskatchewan      (Phase 1)

The Water Security Agency (WSA) is moving ahead with a new approach to agricultural drainage management. The new approach will move Saskatchewan toward responsible agricultural water management by streamlining the regulatory system,  addressing risks associated with drainage in the approval process, and enabling the development of sustainable drainage projects. Learn more at  WSA – Agricultural Water Management Strategy or contact one of your SaskFSA board members.

The Perfect Drainage Policy

SaskFSA submitted a proposal to the Honorable Scott Moe, Minister of Environment titled, “The Perfect Drainage Policy” for consideration in the restructuring of Saskatchewan’s current drainage policy. As a result, SaskFSA was invited to a roundtable discussion at the legislature involving the Minster of Environment, the Minister of Agriculture and officials from the Water Security Agency. The discussion was progressive and of significant value towards positive restructuring of Saskatchewan’s current drainage policy. Read More…

Cost Benefit of Organized Drainage Stewardship Practices Project

A cost benefit analysis of the Okabena Drainage Cooperative established in 2012 and the Madrid Conservation & Development Area established in 1975 was carried out. The setup costs, capital cost, yearly maintenance and operating costs of the projects were compared to the net gains in efficiency, and net return to the flooded area. Read More… Posted on November 24, 2014 via Moose Jaw River Watershed Stewards (MJRWS)

Farmers Lash Out Against Ducks Unlimited Drainage Ads

Radio ads that claim “drainage hurts” may be hurting the reputation of Ducks Unlimited in eastern and central Saskatchewan. The organization has recently run radio ads suggesting agricultural drainage contributed to the flooding of three million acres of farmland and the evacuation of the hospital in Melville, Sask., this summer. Read More… Posted on October 7, 2014 @ The Western Producer

More Wetlands = Less Flooding!

The latest simulated study conducted on the Smith Creek basin has identified many significant issues that will need to be debated throughout North America. Society will soon have to decide what value they want to place on wetland conservation versus achieving a sustainable, economic agricultural model for the future. Not in debate is the value of wetlands to our ecosystem. Agriculture understands more than any part of society the value of clean water, biodiversity, and wildlife preservation. What is in debate is how many are required and where do they need to be located. There will need to be a compromise in the development of a wetland strategy. Throughout the last 150 years of history, wetlands in North America have been drained and defined improving the productivity of the prairies significantly. We can easily quantify the value of a well designed, controlled water management system as emplified by the study found at“The Cost Benefit Analysis of Organized Drainage on the Regina Plains” released by the Moose Jaw Watershed Stewards Inc.

Wetlands are an important part of our ecosystem. Agriculture producers understand that. Currently the area set aside for wildlife and conservation lands in this part of the Prairie Pothole Region would be over 18%. In the dry cycles that number may be as low as 10%. What is the acceptable level of wetland retention and how much more land can be improved? Do we limit the expansion of our cities and urban settings which are also reducing and affecting wetland acreages? As urban development continues to sprawl over once productive agricultural lands what will be the acceptable number of acres that can be taken out of production and covered with asphalt further reducing water retention and penetration?What is an adequate number of water fowl that society will be happy with? At the present time we can see the devastating effects that an overabundance of Canada and Snow geese have had on the arctic tundra as their population continue to expand exponentially. Now we have nesting pairs of geese in abundance throughout the agricultural producing area of the prairies in numbers that have now moved them into the category of pests with their own crop insurance coverage for production lost.Another major concern evolving from this report is the inherent ability of many to point fingers without truly quantifying exactly how big is the issue? How much water from Smith Creek actually contributes to the net flow of the Assiniboine River. One has to question the wisdom of allowing urban development in sensitive areas evident by the malls and new subdivisions in the flats of Brandon, MB. . Cabin and cottage owners continue to build on flood plains and areas of risk. For how long will the taxpayer be responsible for their decisions to continue to build in these sensitive areas. At various times throughout the 19th and 20th century the Assiniboine river had expanded its’ footprint significantly before the days of improved drainage on both the Manitoba and Saskatchewan farm lands. Paddle wheelers were sent with supplies from Winnipeg to Kamsack, SK at the turn of the 20th century. Building along a river comes with many risks whether they happen 1 in 100 years or 1 in 10. The latest study done on the Smith Creek Basin highlights the need for a well thought out management plan that will appease all stakeholders. Progress has allowed us to measure and calculate theoretical problems and identify potential risk factors. Unfortunately the study failed to identify what the current organized system of control structures, flow controls, correct sized outlets and the organized system of storage and accumulation did to mitigate overland flooding in the Smith Creek Basin area. Residents of the area in the flood years of 2011 and 2012 can provide countless stories and pictures of the thousands of acres of water that was held and stored for over 2 months controlling the flow of water into the Assiniboine basin flowing into Manitoba. There exists no comparable structured drainage system in place across the border in Manitoba. Without the Smith Creek system in place there is no doubt that the communities of Langenburg and area would have experienced significant damage. Systems such as these need to be better developed in all risk areas to reduce the overall liability to the province and in the end to all taxpayers. The easiest solution to this problem would be to not do anything and wait for the “dry cycle” to return. Unfortunately if the climate change proponents are correct this may be the scenario we have to deal with for the future. Therefore change and compromise must be undertaken now. Who will lead the charge?

Read More…

Conservation Easement Letter to Minister Moe

Dear Minister Moe: Unfortunately many of our RM’s and ratepayers throughout the Prairie Pothole Region are facing some undue hardships as a result of some loosely structured legislation that has been in place for a number of years. The Conservations Easement Act in effect since January 31, 1997 has been utilized by numerous conservation groups and individuals to ensure the properties affected are placed into long term control by the easement holder in many cases for perpetuity. Although noble by design this has provided some long term issues for many jurisdictions.

The major group at the heart of the concern is Ducks Unlimited. They have been making a policy of purchasing a strategic parcel of land, contouring the land to increase water retention, filling in old watercourses and redeveloping the parcel to increase water holding capacity. Although they are not breaking any laws or statutes they are conveniently affecting significant areas surrounding their protected lands. Water levels in years of high water infiltration will then fill and spill well beyond their original easement. According to Ducks Unlimited 2013 financial report they proudly proclaim that they have 1,867,810 acres of secured land and they influence another 1,477,788 acres.As agriculture producers we certainly respect any land holders rights to designate what they want to do with their land as long as they are within reasonable boundaries. However we have serious concerns when easements issued under the Conservation Easement Act affect other surrounding landowners including those further upstream and downstream. We are certainly aware that illegal ditching also fits into this category. Unfortunately some producers have been forced to take drastic measures because their ability to manage their land is now being curtailed due to increase water encroachment from surrounding wildlife lands. As this water leaves and the soils dry out, salinity levels have increased, adversely affecting the land’s ability to produce at levels previous to the water encroachment.In numerous RM’s, Ducks Unlimited and other wildlife groups have become the single largest property owner. A multitude of issues have been arising with this domination. Decreasing land values due to their management practices has resulted in a lessening of tax revenues for the rural municipalities. Their overarching influence on the surrounding parcels they do not own has also resulted in the long term lowering of property values and taxable assessment further decreasing working capital for RM’s and increasing tax levels for the remaining tax payers. Increasing incidents of beaver damage have been noted with extra costs incurred in removing their natural structures and protecting municipal infrastructure. Also many conservation groups severely limit or even inhibit the municipality’s ability to control the pests on easement bound land. In the most severe cases the inability to maintain water levels has resulted in RM’s losing infrastructure. Replacing them has resulted in significant costs to the ratepayers. A simple recommendation we would like to make to the Ministry is to amend the Conservation Easement Act to limit the water levels that exist on the easement land. Levels need to be maintained at a point that is agreeable to surrounding land owners to minimize surrounding land encroachment. A second recommendation is to lessen the time a conservation easement can be taken out over, perpetuity is not a responsible option. Many situations and opportunities change over the decades. There are now numerous instances where, because of extremely long term easements, actions have been taken by the easement holder that have significantly reduced the ability of surrounding land owners to capitalize on rental or sale opportunities. We would certainly be willing to consult with any further improvements to the Conservation Easement Act to ensure all stakeholders are treated fairly. Sincerely, David Zerr President Sask Farm Stewardship Association PO Box 147 Yorkton, SK S3N 2V6

Read More…

Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan Raises Flooding Concerns

Regina: Flooding and the need to examine both short term and long term solutions were the main topics of a meeting between the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) and provincial Ministers on Tuesday. At APAS’s request, the Ministers responsible for Government Relations, Highways and Transportation, Environment and Agriculture met with the APAS Executive for a briefing on what APAS Board Members were hearing from their members. Read More… Posted on August 27, 2014 @ Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan

Pay Farmers to Stop Drainage: Research Chair

Water expert John Pomeroy says paying farmers to store water might curb unauthorized drainage and alleviate some of the problems that go along with it. The Canada research chair in water resources and climate change, based at the University of Saskatchewan, said he understands why farmers want to get rid of the water. Read More… Posted on July 18, 2014 @ The Western Producer

Manitoba Water Drainage Plans Good News

I have heard that some farmers are concerned about new developments in provincial water management and drainage in Manitoba. However, I am convinced the two proposed strategies announced re-cently by the provincial government are positive news. Read More… Posted on June 26, 2014 @ The Western Producer

Build Trust with Urban Consumers

How can the ever-shrinking population of farmers connect with urban consumers to get a fair hearing on the many controversial issues that are being thrown at agriculture? “There’s only two percent of us and 98 percent non-farming consumers, so we’re a little outnumbered,” said Minnedosa, Man., farmer Neil Galbraith. Read More… Posted on April 11, 2014 @ The Western Producer