Farmers frustrated over proposed Lac. Ste. Anne County land tax – Edmonton

Farmers in Lac. Ste. Anne County are voicing their frustrations over a new proposed land tax brought forward by the region’s council.

The county council says with rising costs they need more cash to maintain infrastructure such as roads and bridges, but farmers say it’s not their problem to solve.

The proposed tax would have farmers with five or more quarters of land pay around $2,500 to the county.

A quarter is equivalent to 160 acres.

Brad Javorsky farms north of Onoway, Atla. Following last year’s losses around a tough growing season, he fears this proposal would hurt his operations further.

“Financially, it would affect our farm a great deal,” Javorsky said. “We’re talking thousands of dollars.”

Javorksy owns nine quarters and rents another five quarters of land. He believes if this proposed plan ever passes, it will open a pathway to implement changes or add more measures that will impact farmers’ bottom line.

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“There is nothing in that bylaw that says they couldn’t add that to every quarter section,” he explained.

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“It could lead in the future to even being applied to rented land as well,” he added.

Jurgen Preugschas farms south of Meyerthorpe, Alta. He’s frustrated that the county is going after producers.

“They’re trying to find ways to raise money. They’re throwing the big net out and trying to find a place to raise all those funds,” Preguschas expressed. “I just don’t believe the county is managed in a prudent fashion.”

County reeve Joe Blakeman said farmers with three or more acres receive a cut in residential taxes on their home. He said thought it was fair for farmers to pay up.

“The farms are getting bigger. They’re not getting smaller. When the farms get bigger, they get a bigger break. We don’t want them to be punished but everybody’s got to pay fair and equitably,” Blakeman said. “Production is getting bigger. Equipment is getting bigger. Roads are taking a beating and we need to find some way to help maintain those roads,” he added.

Javorsky said blaming farming machinery for run-down bridges isn’t fair because they’re not using them.

“A lot of the existing bridges in this county, we can’t use. Our equipment is too wide to get across them. We actually take two three times more road to get to a quarter to a field,” Javorsky explained.

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Blakeman said while they were discussing plans for farmers to contribute, a flat rate hike was never the plan and the county made an error.

“It was a lot of variables into it. It wasn’t just a flat 2,000. It never should have been advertised like that. It was a bad mistake on administration, city council for even having that hit the agenda,” he said.

The Reeve is calling on the Alberta government to step in. He says the county has been maintaining bridges once looked after by the province.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs said they were unaware of the proposed tax but said municipal governments have the power to levy such a tax.

“We encourage them to find a solution that works best for everyone,” the statement read.

Javorsky thinks this is an issue producers across Alberta should keep a close eye on.

“What goes on in one county will surely come in the next in the future. It’s precdent setting,” he said.

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