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Ag portfolio expands in Man.

Manitoba’s new agriculture minister is looking at a very full plate.

Blaine Pedersen, who ran a cattle ranch near Elm Creek for 30 years, is now responsible for agriculture, mining, forestry, wildlife management and watershed districts in the province.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister unveiled his new cabinet last week, following the Progressive Conservatives election victory in September.

Pedersen is the minister of a new provincial department — agriculture and resource development.

“What we were hearing from agricultural producers … was having to deal with two or more departments (for) drainage or tile drainage,” Pedersen said.

“This becomes a one-stop shop…. It (will) make for a much smoother application and permitting process.”

Pedersen, an MLA from south-central Manitoba, takes over from Ralph Eichler, who served as Manitoba’s agriculture minister from the spring of 2015 until the provincial election in early September.

Eichler is now the minister of economic development and training.

During his term, Eichler set a goal of expanding Manitoba’s cattle herd and the protein industry in the province.

“We’ll continue that. The beef industry is important and has tremendous potential to grow in Manitoba,” said Pedersen.

He will also be in charge of Manitoba’s Growing Outcomes in Watersheds program, which will pay landowners for ecosystem services, such as preserving wetlands and establishing shelter belts.

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