A familiar face is returning as Manitoba’s agriculture minister.

Ralph Eichler, who served as the province’s ag minister from 2016 to 2019, has been sworn in as minister of agriculture and resource development as part of a small cabinet shuffle announced by Premier Brian Pallister on Thursday (July 15).

Eichler replaces his successor and long-time PC MLA colleague, Blaine Pedersen.

The cabinet shuffle followed the resignation of former Indigenous relations minister Eileen Clarke earlier this week. Pallister thanked Clarke and Pedersen for their service as members of cabinet since 2016, in a news release.

The province said Eichler has been given an immediate priority to develop drought relief support for farmers and ranchers.

Eichler served as minister of economic development and jobs over the last two years, a portfolio that saw him involved in efforts to attract and support value-added processing facilities to the province, such as the Roquette pea plant at Portage. The economic development portfolio has been given to MLA Jon Reyes.

Manitoba farm groups are welcoming Eichler’s return to his former post.

“Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) congratulates Ralph Eichler on his appointment to cabinet as Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development. We look forward to working with him to grow Manitoba’s agricultural industry,” says KAP president Bill Campbell, in a statement. “KAP would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Blaine Pedersen, outgoing Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development. As a producer and advocate, MLA and cabinet minister, we have appreciated Minister Pedersen’s passion and engagement and wish him the best.”

“Minister Eichler has a strong grasp of agriculture and rural issues,” notes Rick Préjet, chair of Manitoba Pork, in a statement also thanking Pedersen for his service.

Federal-provincial-territorial agriculture ministers from across the country are holding a virtual meeting on Thursday where it’s expected they will discuss how to coordinate drought relief, as well as the ongoing consultations and negotiations to update AgriStability and other business risk management programs.

The ministers are scheduled to meet in-person in Guelph in September to discuss priorities for the next five-year ag policy framework, assuming a federal election has not been called before then.

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