ARTICLES

Property Rights and Contracts

Posted on April 28, 2021

 

Healthy soil, healthy farms and healthy people

 

By Annette Schinborn

“It is in your best interest to ensure your soil is protected. Do not leave it to chance or think government has any ability to protect you.”

At CAEPLA, we believe in protecting your property rights. One of the best ways of protecting those rights is through business agreements or contracts.

Landowners are very familiar with contracts and how they work. You sign contracts when selling your grain, often before you even have placed the seed in the ground. You know and understand the value of having a contract, especially when you can lock in prices that are high rather than risk selling at a lower price.

When it comes to biosecurity and protecting the health of your soils, contracts are the best way to protect your land.

Relying on government to look out for you or relying on the energy industry to follow vague protocols that are of no benefit to it leaves your property open to infestation and abuse.

CAEPLA has seen it very clearly in the case of Manitoba Hydro on the Bipole III construction. Cleaning and disinfection of equipment was random at best, even when landowners patrolled their own property and watched closely.

 

Biosecurity, spelled out

What’s worse, the Manitoba government under Premier Brian Pallister allowed its Crown corporation to browbeat landowners and expropriate their property, rather than holding the company to account and requiring it to negotiate an agreement with landowners — including a biosecurity protocol that would be spelled out in a contract.

In contrast, CAEPLA and its members on the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement pipeline worked together to get the precedent-setting, robust biosecurity protocol in a win-win business agreement — a contract — that gave landowners confidence and peace of mind that their soil was being protected.

When the equipment moved in, there was a very specific agreement on how your land was going to be treated to protect against invasive weeds like leafy spurge and soil diseases like clubroot. And an independent CAEPLA construction monitor was there to ensure the protocol was followed according to the agreement.

You can’t depend on other people to protect your property for you. We each have to take responsibility for our soil, and by extension our property values, and put our own measures in place in the form of a biosecurity protocol.

CAEPLA has worked with landowners who have various standards of biosecurity protocols.

 

Don’t leave anything to chance

Landowners growing vegetables like tomatoes have very strong biosecurity protocols in order to meet with Canada Food Agency licensing agreements. Landowners growing potatoes have their own protocols to meet with the standards of their operations. Other landowners have varying degrees of stringency in their biosecurity protocols.

Of course, some landowners don’t bother thinking through and drafting a biosecurity protocol for their farms, trusting everything to chance or for someone else to protect them.

The health of your soil is not just the lifeblood of your farm, it’s your livelihood.

Soil health is essential to your farm produce, your business, your net worth and your family legacy. It needs to be protected at all costs.

It is in your best interest to ensure your soil is protected from industrial or recreational activity and even political activists wanting access to your property. Do not leave it to chance or think government has any ability to protect you.

Maintaining soil health involves not only developing protocols that keep out or limit the spread of weeds or disease. It also involves giving your soil the proper nutrition. Hiring agronomists to test your soil so you can supplement where there are deficiencies also helps keep your soil healthy. Being proactive and establishing other protocols such as crop rotation, planting cover crops, using livestock as well as no-tillage are additional measures that can be taken to improve soil health.

Farmers and ranchers are very aware of the effects of poor soil nutrition and the invasiveness of weeds or disease. It is something you work with 24/7/365. You are aware of the importance of putting protocols in place that protect your soil so it is healthy and productive.

In this time when everyone globally is acutely aware and focused on disease and health, we can draw some parallels between soil health and diseases and ourselves. We can ask ourselves, are we depending on government to “protect” us, or are we being proactive, taking measures and developing our own biosecurity protocols to keep us healthy?

 

Security for soil, farm and family

Your property rights include the right to enter freely into contracts that protect your interests down to the smallest detail. Contracts empower you to guard against liabilities and protect yourself against vulnerabilities as you see fit.

CAEPLA and others have long lamented that property rights are not really recognized or protected in Canada. But we can still make the moral case for our property rights, and by understanding them, protect them with contract law as best we can.

More than ever, people are waking up to the reality that government cannot protect them or their livelihood. When government services are not at risk of being overwhelmed, government intervention often makes matters worse.

Property rights are our best bet to safeguard soil, farm and family.

Published in PIPELINE OBSERVER Winter 2021