Manitoba agriculture merged into new provincial ministry

Blaine Pedersen, shown here in 2016, is Manitoba’s new minister for agriculture and resource development. (Manitoba Co-operator photo by Lorraine Stevenson)

Manitoba’s provincial agriculture ministry is being merged with its resource development arm under the oversight of the minister responsible for the latter.

Premier Brian Pallister on Wednesday announced a reorganization of his government’s ministries along with a shuffle of his cabinet in the wake of his Progressive Conservative government’s re-election last month.

The realignment sees the agriculture ministry become part of a new department, agriculture and resource development, which was described Wednesday as “an expanded department focused on agriculture and natural resources, including watershed districts, GROW programming, forestry, mining, fish and wildlife management.”

Apart from agriculture, the new ministry picks up responsibilities handled until now by the previous department of sustainable development and department of growth, enterprise and trade. The latter department’s minister, Midland MLA Blaine Pedersen, was named Wednesday to lead the new department.

Pedersen hails from Elm Creek and worked over 30 years in the cattle feeding business before becoming the MLA for what was then the Carman constituency in 2007.

He served as the Tories’ opposition critic for agriculture, food and rural initiatives from 2011 until the party returned to power in 2016; he then served as minister for infrastructure from 2016 into 2017, when he was named to handle the growth, enterprise and trade file.

As agriculture minister, Pedersen replaces Lakeside MLA Ralph Eichler, who’d held the post since 2016 and was shuffled Wednesday to lead another newly formed department, economic development and training.

The “GROW programming” now listed among Pedersen’s responsibilities refers to the $52 million Growing Outcomes in Watersheds trust.

The trust, which until now was a responsibility of the sustainable development department, was set up in June to back programming for the protection of wetlands and watershed management.

Pallister on Tuesday separately announced new GROW trust funding for three separate programs. The Seine-Rat River Conservation District and Little Saskatchewan River Conservation District each receive $250,000 to expand their ALUS Canada ecological goods and services programs, while up to $1 million goes to the TransCanada Shelterbelt Renewal Project.

Among other provincial portfolios of interest to farmers, Fort Richmond MLA Sarah Guillemard was named Wednesday as minister for conservation and climate, while Riel MLA Rochelle Squires, the former sustainable development minister, will now handle the municipal relations file.

The reorganization, Pallister said Wednesday, will “create areas of focus consistent with our priorities and our vision to move Manitoba forward.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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