Alberta (Foothills) MP John Barlow once again has a spot in the Conservative shadow cabinet.

The party's leader Erin O'Toole announced the lineup on Tuesday (Nov. 9) morning, with John Barlow returning as shadow minister for agriculture, agri-food and food security.

It's a role he's already familiar with, having served the same role under Andrew Scheer.

The drought that plagued the prairies over the summer is just another issue compounding prior blows to the industry, says Barlow.

"It's tough when you're getting hits from different directions. They had the [challenging] harvest...rail blockades, and the CM strike two years ago, then you have the pandemic... then you get another dry year, the fourth out of five years with a devastating drought across Western Canada."

He doesn't think very highly of the response from the federal government.

"I think what we've seen is where agriculture sits on the priority list of the current Liberal government, and it's clear it's quite low. When the pandemic started, we were working extremely hard to try and get some programs for agriculture when it came to emergency business accounts and CERB. A lot of those things, agriculture didn't qualify for because it's unique and family farms, they are corporations but they're set up in a unique way.

"Even this drought, I spoke with my colleagues on the Liberal side trying to get supports for feed. Certainly, on the cattle side, that was a huge issue. It just takes them forever to get through their bureaucracy, to get their attention."

He's also wary of the current environment minister, who's drawn the ire of several other Conservative MP's as of late.

"I know we have a lot of discussions about having Minister Guilbeault in the environment. This is an environmental eco-activist that's going to be devastating for Western Canada. We talk a lot about the oil and gas side, but there's no doubt he can be as damaging to agriculture, as he's already started to throw things out there about fertilizer use, methane reductions, carbon tax, all these things. They'll have an impact on agriculture too."

As far as issues he intends to address and advocate for, he identified a few short and long-term priorities.

Drought recovery and self-sufficiency through manufacturing and processing are among his short-term goals, with trade barriers and increasing food prices to be addressed in the long term.

He's glad to be back, having fostered relationships with Canadian producers he's fostered previously.

"Our producers, farmers, processors and agri-business owners, they trust me and my team, they have confidence in us, they know we understand the file, and we go to bat for them. We listen. We may not always agree on everything, but at least they know I'm accessible and we're knowledgeable about the file and understand a lot of the obstacles they face."

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