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Alberta Ag Minister weighs in on state of industry

Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson was in Grande Prairie Friday to take in the 30th Annual Peace Country Classic Agri-Show.

He says in the wake of collapsing oil prices now is the time for the province to capitalize and invest in the revenue potential of other industries like agriculture or forestry.

“Every time we have a big swing in prices we all say we’ve got to diversify, but it’s one thing to say you’ve got to diversify, it’s another thing to actually do it. I’m feeling pretty good about the absolute commitment that we have to doing something about diversification.”

Olson says the province’s agriculture industry is well placed to bolster the province’s economy, adding that the middle class in emerging economies around the world are demanding safe, high quality food- something Alberta has the capacity to provide.

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“It’s a time of great opportunity for us. What I would really like to see is us do more value added. Shipping out our raw product is fine but there’s a real opportunity for us to add value to it and create more jobs in rural Alberta.”

Meanwhile Alberta farmers are gearing up for spring seeding, and many are still grappling with how to get untouched harvest from previous years to market.

Olson says Canadian rail companies are moving record amounts of grain but that doesn’t mean the backlog is solved, particularly in more remote communities.

“All that volume that the rail companies are moving is from what you might call ‘low-hanging fruit’. It’s being moved from the big elevators on the main lines. The short lines, the remote areas, they’re still suffering and we’re still hearing a lot about that.”

Olson says these transportation frustration is not unique to grain exports, adding that representatives from various ministries are continuing to work with other provinces and the federal government to get both Albertan and Canadian grain moving.

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