Despite a year in which local producers experienced the worst drought in generations, MLA Jack Hayden is optimistic taking on his new role as Minister of Agricultural and Rural Development.
On January 15, Premier Ed Stelmach swore in his new cabinet. MLA for Drumheller-Stettler, Jack Hayden left behind his position of Minister of Infrastructure and took on the portfolio of Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“It is certainly not an easy position, especially last year in our area with that drought. That was the worst drought in 50 years. When you step in at a time like this, it makes life more interesting,” Hayden told The Mail.
The position suits him as he has lived on the family homestead for the last 35 years in the Endiang area. He is the fourth generation on the farm, which is turning 100 this year. He served in rural municipal politics for years and represented rural and remote Canadian communities on the Prime Minister’s External Advisory Committee on Cities and Communities. He brings a solid understanding and appreciation of primary agriculture.
“A lot of the value is going to come from the fact that the farmers in our area are primary producers, and not as much the value added chain, so I know that part of the industry,” he said. “You have to focus on the whole industry, but nothing else works if the primary producer isn’t making money, everything else crumbles. That is going to be an area of concentration for me.”
Hayden is optimistic about the state of agriculture.
“It is our province’s second largest industry, but also it is our largest renewable industry. People always need to eat, and there are more people in the world and improving and expanding economies in India and China. All of those people are looking for the higher quality things in life, and that includes food,” he said. “I am very excited and optimistic about the future.”
He applauds and supports the producer initiative to purchase the rail line from Oyen to Lyalta, to turn it into a short line railway.
“ I helped work through government to get the money in place to get the proper studies to look into the options,” he said.
He has been receiving updates on the progress and says they are quite optimistic. He says there may be support from the government in the near future.
“Of course, we are Agriculture and Rural Development, so if there are possibilities something they are proposing will fall under the programs and qualifies, I’ll be there to help anyway I can,” said Hayden.
Hayden was first elected in the Drumheller Stettler riding in a by-election in June of 2007, and retained his seat in a general election in 2008.