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Manitoba is Serious About its Protein Potential

Toban Dyck, Director of Communications, MPSG – Spring (March) Pulse Beat 2020

Manitoba is serious about its protein potential, which, right now, seems almost limitless.

The idea of having a one-on-one with the Honourable Blaine Pedersen, Manitoba’s Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development, seemed like a long shot. But what if he said yes? What if he’d be willing to introduce himself to our members and talk to us about where he sees agriculture going in Manitoba?

He said yes.

“Up until recently, we’ve been reluctant to market ourselves,” said Pedersen. “As a government, we keep reminding all of our stakeholders to stop being so humble and start talking about the things that we have. It’s happening now.”

What is your vision for agriculture in Manitoba?

The vision for government is the food-processing industry. The more we can do secondary processing in Manitoba, the better it is for the agricultural community and the economy. It’s the farmer in me that makes me an eternal optimist. There’s really a bright future for Manitoba and for agriculture.

There are environmental benefits to growing pulses and soybeans. How do pulses and soybeans fit into the province’s green plan?

It fits in with our protein strategy. Whether it’s using the plants in a plant-protein base or as a protein supplement for the animal protein side, pulses are there and soybeans are, too.

What is the latest on the province’s protein strategy?

Minister Eichler, back in September when he was Agriculture Minister, had the Manitoba Protein Advantage Strategy kick-off. We have just appointed what we call our protein consortium. It’s made up of advisors out of — not only producer groups — but industry, academia, and the food industry.

We’re asking them for their advice on how, as a government, we can move forward to enhance the protein industry here in Manitoba.

Pulses seem to dominate the protein/processing discussion. Is there room for soybeans to be a part of that, as well?

Soybeans and pulse crops form an integral part of crop rotation. Both have tremendous potential for further processing right here in Manitoba.

How big is the protein industry going to get in Manitoba and how will the province deal with it?

We think this is just the start. We have abundant water capacity. We have electricity. We have transportation and we’re no different than any other jurisdiction when it comes to a skilled workforce. I liken it to the big box mentality: as we’re building our industry here, more will come.

The markets have been poor for soybeans and pulses. Is there something the province of Manitoba can do to support farmers during times like these?

We made some small changes to crop insurance. We know that agriStability has its challenges. Business risk management programs are all federal-provincial agreements. This current agreement runs out in 2023, so if we’re going to make changes to anything, we need to be working on that now. We are looking at some changes.

On the marketing side, as a govern­ment, we are becoming much more aggressive on getting out there.

It’s our role to be out there promoting our clean, green environment and building trust between governments. We all know how governments can get in the way of trade agreements. It’s government’s role to step back the political side of it and keep the science in trade.

What is the province going to do to maintain good roads and good infrastructure around transportation?

Let’s make sure our trade corridors are in good shape. The hub and spoke mentality — If this is the hub, how do we make sure the roads leading to it are good. We are increasing spending on roads. We look at the return on investment when we invest in roads.

Pedersen was clear that he wants to hear from farmers and farm groups and work in harmony with them on solution-based approaches to the ag industry’s challenges. On behalf of Manitoba’s pulse and soybean growers, thanks, Minister Pedersen, for taking the time.