Eichler back as Manitoba ag minister in shuffle

Pedersen not seeking re-election

Ralph Eichler, shown here at Ag Days in Brandon in 2019, is again Manitoba’s minister of agriculture. (Manitoba Co-operator photo by Allan Dawson)

Manitoba’s provincial agriculture files return to the desk of their former handler in a cabinet mini-shuffle Thursday.

Premier Brian Pallister has named Ralph Eichler, MLA for the Interlake-area riding of Lakeside since 2003, as minister of agriculture and resource development, replacing Blaine Pedersen.

Pedersen announced Thursday he will not seek re-election but will serve out his term as MLA for the Carman-area riding of Midland. Manitoba’s next provincial election is set for Oct. 3, 2023 at the latest.

Eichler was ag minister from 2016 until 2019, when Pedersen, who’d previously served as minister for infrastructure and later for growth, enterprise and trade, replaced him in an earlier shuffle. The ag department was recast as agriculture and resource development, and Eichler moved to the economic development file.

Thursday’s mini-shuffle also sees Jon Reyes, MLA for the south Winnipeg riding of Waverley, replace Eichler on economic development.

Veterinarian Dr. Alan Lagimodiere, the MLA for Selkirk, becomes minister for Indigenous reconciliation and northern relations, replacing Agassiz MLA Eileen Clarke in what was until now Indigenous and northern relations.

In the Lakeside riding, Eichler, 71, represents several communities and RMs to the north and west of Winnipeg including Teulon, Stonewall and Elie.

He raised cattle and operated Prairie Farm and Ranch Supply and Ray’s Auction Services before entering politics, where he served eight years as the Tories’ ag critic on the opposition benches.

Pallister, in a release Thursday, said Eichler’s mandate as ag minister will be “to further strengthen growth in these critical sectors of the province’s economy and community life.”

An “immediate priority,” Pallister added, “will be to develop drought relief support for hard-hit farmers and ranchers.”

As of Tuesday, two Interlake-area rural municipalities, Armstrong and St. Laurent, had declared states of agricultural disaster due to lack of rainfall and to insect problems.

“Topsoil moisture continues to decline and crop, hay and pasture conditions continue to deteriorate,” the provincial ag department reported Tuesday. “Many crops are maturing faster than normal and grain and pod filling in cereals, canola and peas will be affected by heat and lack of moisture this week.”

Also, the province said, grasshopper feeding is increasingly widespread and spraying for control is underway “in all regions, primarily on hay, pasture and cereal crops, as well as roadside ditches.”

The federal Conservatives, among others, have already put in requests to federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau for all of Manitoba, as well as Alberta and Saskatchewan, to be designated for drought-related tax deferrals on breeding livestock sales.

Bill Campbell, president of Manitoba farm group Keystone Agricultural Producers, congratulated Eichler on his re-appointment and the group “look(s) forward to working with him to grow Manitoba’s agricultural industry.”

Campbell on Thursday also acknowledged Pedersen’s stint on the ag file, adding that “as a producer and advocate, MLA and cabinet minister, we have appreciated Minister Pedersen’s passion and engagement and wish him the best.” –– Glacier FarmMedia Network

 

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Dave Bedard

Editor, Daily News, Glacier FarmMedia Network. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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