Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan government rolled out its 2017-18 cost-cutting budget yesterday, and there’s something for everyone to pick on. Affecting all sectors, Wall is increasing the provincial sales tax (PST) from five to six per cent, and has re-written what goods and services are no longer PST-exempt.

Specific for farmers, beginning April 1, 2017, fuel tax exemptions will change — bulk gasoline will no longer be eligible for a tax exemption, however bulk diesel purchases are eligible for an 80% tax exemption (12 cents/litre). Non-dyed or at-the-pump purchase of diesel will not be eligible for a tax refund.

Only fuel tax exemption permit holders qualify, and must meet certain criteria to be designated as a “farmer.” A farmer is one of the following: a person who owns or rents at least 75 acres of cultivated land in Saskatchewan, that is used for the growing of cereal crops; or who received gross annual revenue of at least $10,000 from the sale of primary farm products that he or she produced in Saskatchewan. Also, a person may also qualify as a farmer if he or she is a member or shareholder in a farm organization, such as an agricultural corporation, farm partnership, a farm co-operative, or a farm colony, and “contributed substantially to the agricultural production of that farm organization.”

Farmers must complete a Farm Fuel Program Permit Renewal each year to renew their Fuel Tax Exemption Permit.

PASTURE PROGRAM CUT

The 2017-18 budget also includes the end of the Saskatchewan Pastures Program (SPP), which will cease operating the 51 pastures (780,000 acres) by the year’s end.

“The SPP was originally created to help support the diversification of the industry,” says Minister of Agriculture Lyle Stewart. “However, our industry has evolved, as have the needs of producers.  Managing private cattle is no longer a core business function of the government.”

CBC reports cutting the pasture program won’t result in any actual cash savings for the province, as the program operates on a break-even basis. However, at least a portion of the land will be sold, most likely with Crown conservation easements.

The fate of the land is open to consulation, the Saskatchewan government says, and an online survey will be available at www.saskatchewan.ca/pastures from March 27 until May 8.

“We want to hear from the public about how the land can be managed and used in the future to best benefit Saskatchewan people in a way that ensures continued environmental stewardship and ongoing grazing opportunities for our livestock producers,” Stewart says.  “The views of current pasture patrons, the wider agriculture industry, environmental groups, First Nations, Métis and others will help determine the best management plan for this valuable resource going forward.”

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