By J.W. Schnarr
Cropland rental rates are going up.
During their regular meeting on Jan. 27, Municipal District of Taber council voted to increase the cropland rates within the M.D., something which hasn’t happened in some time, according to M.D. Reeve Brian Brewin.
“We haven’t had significant changes in a long time,” he said.
Effective in 2015, rates will increase from 10 per cent to 15 per cent, followed by one per cent increases in 2016 and 2017, for a total of 17 per cent of assessed value after three years.
Prior to discussing the rental rates, council passed a motion to allow all councillors to be involved in the rental rate discussions, and that there is no conflict of interest to do so as the rates for all leaseholders would be applied equally.
“If you are setting the mill rate for your own quarter, it’s a conflict,” said Brewin. “If you are setting the mill rate for everybody, it’s not.”
The M.D. leases approximately 6,800 acres of land for crop production, including 100 acres under centre pivot irrigation at two locations. Prior to the increases, rental rates within the M.D. generated between $6.10 to $21.07 per acre (with an average of $15.07). Alberta Agriculture has determined that the 2012 average rental rate for dryland cultivation in southern Alberta generated $45 per acre.
Division 1 Coun. Merrill Harris said he was in favour of a rate increase in light of the fact M.D. cropland rental is so much lower than the provincial average.
“But what a fair amount is, I don’t know,” he said.
Division 2 Coun. Tom Machacek was in agreement with Harris. “I think we need to be more in line with the provincial average,” he said. “If it was my land, I’d want it to be fair, and I think this is fair to the taxpayers.”
Deputy Reeve Dwight Tolton said while he was in favour of increasing the rate for the land, he was not in favour of doubling the rate all at once, something Division 4 Coun. Ben Elfring agreed with.
“It does warrant an increase of sorts,” he said. “But we don’t want to make it too high, because we have some very good stewards of the land. If you make it too high, you’re just going to reap their profits. There has to be a balance, because you don’t want to lose those good stewards.”
Brewin said the rate increases could take place over a number of years in order to provide a gradual increase for lessees.
“I would feel comfortable with a smaller percentage over a number of years,” he said.
Following discussion, council voted 4–1 in favour of increasing the rental rates, with Tolton and Dunsmore abstaining.