High Hopes For New Premier

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Alberta s new premier doesn t have a farm background, but farm leaders say they re optimistic that Alison Redford will be good for agriculture.

There s always hope, isn t there? said Phil Rowland, president of the Western Stock Growers Association. I m not unhappy that Alison became premier. Maybe she ll take the world in a different direction. We re certainly willing to work with whomever it is that we get to work with.

Rowland said his group wants to continue working on a proposed pilot project involving ecological goods and services.

The Wild Rose Agricultural Producers met with five of the six leadership candidates, Redford included.

She was very straightforward, she s not a farmer and she knows very little about agriculture, but she s very willing to learn, said Humphrey Banack, the group s president. She understands that it s the No. 2 industry in Alberta.

We had a long chat about renewal of rural Alberta and how we reinvigorate that rural-urban population transfer we ve been seeing. We talked about strategies, how we entice businesses to set up in rural Alberta& (and the) infrastructure that would be necessary to maintain them there.

His members also have a keen interest in being recognized and compensated for being good stewards of the land.

No change expected

The chairman of the Alberta Beef Producers said his group enjoyed a good relationship with the previous administration and he isn t expecting any sudden change of direction.

We look forward to a lot of the same, said Chuck MacLean. You have to work with whatever problems and issues of the day are, and every one of them causes you to take a deep breath.

Agriculture can be complicated business and sometimes even policy developed with the best of intentions can be difficult to implement once it moves from the desk to the field, he noted.

For every action, there s an equal and opposite reaction so you always need to take a look to see who you re affecting and I believe that most of the time, thats what (former minister Jack) Hayden did and that s what we tried to do and we had a lot of positive things come out of that. Hopefully we ll end up with the people who want to carry on with that same tradition.

Doug Price, chairman of the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association, is taking a wait-and-see approach.

We re always positive on this stuff, said Price. And you ve got Doug Horner as deputy (premier) and you ve got the new ag minister (Evan Berger), which we re pretty excited about. He s been in agriculture all his life. We really think that was a really good choice. She s put some pretty good people around her. We re looking forward to working with them and I guess time will tell how it goes.

Jim Haggins, chairman of Alberta Pork, met with Redford for half an hour during the leadership campaign to discuss current issues.

Although she s not very knowledgeable about the agricultural industry in the province, she was very attentive and contributed some general comments, he said.

The pork industry needs to build on the current offering of risk management programs, said Haggins, adding the Hog Price Insurance program launched recently is a good start. However, he said the AgriStability program needs major improvements, as it isn t working for producers who have been suffering losses for three years or longer.

We re looking forward to talking with Mr. Berger and seeing what they can do. It s a relatively short time frame we re dealing with here if the election is going to be called next spring, early summer.

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I mnotunhappythatAlisonbecamepremier.Maybeshe lltaketheworldinadifferentdirection.

PHIL ROWLAND

WESTERN STOCK GROWERS ASSOCIATION

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