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Thursday, 27 October 2011 08:22

Berger gets key position in Redford’s cabinet

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By Susan Quinlan
With the recent election of Premier Alison Redford comes the expected cabinet shuffle and among those taking up new posts is Evan Berger, now Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“It’s fantastic. I’m honoured and privileged, and plan to do everything I can to create more success in agriculture.”

Berger, who is MLA for Livingstone-Macleod constituency, said he’s looking forward to his new position and as well he’s looking forward to working alongside MLA Barry McFarland (Little Bow constituency), appointed to the position of parliamentary assistant.

“What I’m very pleased with is having Barry appointed as parliamentary assistant. We have very many things we complement each other on ... We’ve had a good harvest and good prices both in livestock and grain right now and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

M.D. of Willow Creek Reeve Henry Van Hierden was pleased with Berger’s new responsibility.

“Having known Evan for a lot of years, his integrity and knowledge of all aspects of agriculture, it’s a good posting and he’ll do a great job.”

Commenting on the recent introduction of federal legislation limiting the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly, opening up grain markets for Western Canadian farmers, Berger had this to say.

“Alberta has always been in support of a dual market and that position has not been altered at all by this decision ... We’re willing to work with the federal government and user groups to seize opportunities and mitigate any problems that may exist.”

Berger was in Australia in 2009 following that country’s move to deregulate their wheat board’s monopoly.

“Some of their results were fairly phenomenal; they went from 17 to 41 markets. They’ve significantly increased their market share in the world … Change is inevitable, but the reality of it is positioning ourselves best for our producer and not limiting our opportunities. Look to the future …

“We, as a partner with the federal government, will be following the legislation as it’s introduced in the House.”

Berger said on the home front, his main priority is to meet with producer groups.

“We have to open more markets. We have to be recognized as the foremost stable and dependable food source.”

Berger said he’d be asking the producer groups what pitfalls and problems they’re experiencing.

“What are some of the cumbersome pieces of paperwork coming down the pike. We can’t jeopardize food safety, but we need to reduce these things.

The biggest thing, ask producers where should we start.”

As well, he will ask producer groups to identify other opportunities in agriculture, to make the industry even more competitive on the world market.

“We need to be preparing. If we can’t compete on the large scale, how do we keep family farms and smaller operations going? Are there opportunities in berries … We need producer groups to bring those ideas forward. There are opportunities for small operations and we need to identify them, so those people can source that, whether that means helping out from the insurance end of whatever.

“Overall, we’ll sit down with producer groups and

see what’s troubling them and reduce some of those barriers ... That’s part of the role I see for myself; have the attitude to talk to people and see where we can go from here.

“Agriculture is the second largest industry in Alberta. It’s not only our past, it’s our present and will be our future.”

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