Exemption allows Al-Pac to grow poplars on leased land
EDMONTON, February 26, 2003 - A conditional exemption from foreign ownership restrictions has been approved, allowing Alberta Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac) to lease 25,000 hectares (approximately 250 square km) of privately owned land in northeastern Alberta to grow poplars.
Al-Pac will be able to enter into 30-year leases, with the option of renewing for another 30 years, provided the renewal occurs before the first term ends. The longer-term leases will give local landowners another stable source of income and the company the flexibility to grow trees to a sufficient maturity for harvest.
David Coutts, Minister of Alberta Government Services, recommended Cabinet approve the Order-in-Council granting the exemption, after consulting with the Ministers of Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. "The hybrid poplars to be used by Al-Pac can be planted and harvested within as little as 30 years, making these trees a viable alternative to traditional crops," said Coutts. "This is clearly a case where farmers will benefit by having another crop option for their land."
Alberta's Foreign Ownership of Land Regulations normally restrict leases by foreign-owned companies, such as Al-Pac, to a maximum of 20 years. However, the regulations also permit the government to exempt companies if it would result in an economic benefit for the province.
Shirley McClellan, Deputy Premier and Minister of Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development said the last several years have been challenging ones for many in the agricultural industry and this may be an option some producers will want to consider. "The decision to lease farmland to plant poplars makes sense, as they were the original vegetation in many of these areas. This will be good news for farmers who are looking for ways to diversify," said McClellan.
Conditions placed on the exemption will ensure Albertans benefit from any longer-term leases. They stipulate that landowners may permit oil and gas related activity on the leased land and keep any revenues generated. Landowners also retain the right to transfer the title and lease to a new landowner. Al-Pac may only lease parcels of 80 acres or more if the parcel has a farmland capability rating of 50.99 or less (lower grade farmland), as determined by the municipality; if the parcel is less than 80 acres, it may have a rating of more than 51.00.
If Al-Pac stops using a parcel of land for three continuous years, it must terminate the lease for that parcel. If the trees are destroyed by natural causes, such as drought or insect infestation, Al-Pac will not receive compensation from any disaster relief program funded by the Alberta Government.
Al-Pac must provide a yearly summary of all land leased for more than 20 years. The Minister of Government Services may conduct audits for compliance with the conditions.
For information on Alberta's Foreign Ownership of Land Regulations, see www.gov.ab.ca/gs/information/registries/fola.cfm.
Media enquiries may be directed to:
Megan Parker - Alberta Government Services - (780) 415-6051
The Order-in-Council approved by Cabinet permits Al-Pac, a foreign-controlled company located about 50 km northeast of Athabasca, to lease 25,000 hectares of privately owned land in a region of northeastern Alberta for up to 30 years, with option of renewing for another 30 years (provided specific conditions are met).
Alberta Government Services
Alberta's Foreign Ownership of Land Regulations:
Contact for media inquiries: Megan Parker, Alberta Government Services (780) 415-6051
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development
Contact for media inquiries: Terry Willock, Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, (780) 422-7683