In my role as Chair at ABP, I have had many producers recently ask me about our newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development. I had the opportunity to sit down with Minister Nate Horner to gain insights into his position and his vision for our industry.
Here is what he had to say.
What propelled your desire to enter the political platform?
The agriculture sector is really all I’ve ever known and I have a strong desire for it to remain sustainable and profitable. I wanted to make sure that we had a strong agricultural voice in government that also had a strong understanding. I also thought it was important to have different perspectives. It is a challenge for me with my young family at this stage in my life to do this for sure, but I also think that it is a great opportunity to have people at different stages in their life representing the industry. Those like myself who are still trying to grow their business, and not retired and looking backwards. So, these are important perspectives to have in the legislature and I felt that I could bring that to the position.
How do you manage the demands of your position and all the time away from your cattle operation and young family?
Well, it’s very difficult. I owe my wife tremendously for keeping everything together at home. I told her the next midlife crisis definitely gets to be hers. But on a serious note, it’s very difficult and we also rely on both sets of grandparents that my kids are quite close to, so they’re a big, big part of this puzzle. When it comes to the cattle and farming operations, I have a gentleman that has worked for and with me for 16 years. It wouldn’t be possible without him either. I had to ask his permission to run for this position too. I’m not sure the order – if it was before my wife or after my wife. Regardless, it certainly wouldn’t have been possible without his participation. He welcomed more responsibility, so I said, I’ll give you all the responsibility you can handle. So here we are today, and we are kind of flying by the seat of our pants, but he is doing a great job. My situation is reflective of the agricultural community and the support of family and community coming together to support each other in times of need.
What is your vision for a sustainable beef industry in Alberta?
Oh, that’s a good question. I think it’s fairly complicated, but at the same time it’s fairly simple. We see the pressures that are being faced on a lot of different sectors, but agriculture specifically. We have to roll with the punches. We are facing a lot of environmental pressures to continue to show the world that we are sustainable and good stewards of the land. We also need to ensure that we’re profitable and that’s very difficult right now for a number of reasons. We are facing inflation and rising input costs on everything that we touch in our farm businesses. Combine that with the fact that we are price takers. At the end of the day, I would love to see more hook space brought into this province and in this country. As beef producers, we know there’s a ton of value in this chain and we are confident that the leverage is going to shift to the producer and the feeder in the near future, but I would like to see more capacity, and the ability to share that value back to the producer.
What is the key issue in our industry that keeps you up at night?
Well right now, I’d have to give you about three or four. I would love for the beef sector to get more processing capacity in this province as I mentioned before, and I’d love to address the veterinarian shortage. I’d love to see some real changes made in Alberta on those fronts. In the general ag sector, I would love to move forward with some business risk management changes that address all of the subsectors of agriculture, so that we can really mitigate our risks. And lastly, I would just love to be able to tell our environmental story in a way that moves us forward – a way that shows the world that we are the best stewards of the land and that we are indeed doing a tremendous job.
Tell us a bit about your cow calf operation
My wife and I farm and ranch together with our families. I still have an uncle and aunt farming and my parents are still actively farming as well as my wife’s parents. I had an opportunity to buy into the family farm at a fairly young age after my grandfather passed. Since then, I have been trying to grow and adapt for the past 17 years. We are predominately a cow calf operation. We have a little irrigation that I set up a few years back as well. I am trying to balance our strengths and our weaknesses. At times I thought grass was a strength, so I would try to shore up the feeding side of our operation and just as you’re doing that, you are trying to enhance the equipment requirements and just trying to move forward. These efforts are all put forth to try to remain profitable and stay in the game and hope to someday be able to give my kids the opportunity to carry it on. I’m well aware that if it wasn’t for the continuity of the generations before me – they could have all cashed in their chips in many different stages, but they didn’t – if it wasn’t for that, almost no one would currently be in the business of farming or ranching. Especially now with the availability of capital and land prices in general.
Thank you Minister Horner. I am certain that those same issues are keeping fellow Alberta beef producers up at night across our province as well. I know they ring true for me as Chair, ABP and as a producer myself. Of course, the veterinarian shortage is an issue that lies close to my heart as well.
Okay, now for some rapid-fire questions are you ready?
What generation are you leading on your operation?
I’m fifth generation on my grandmother’s side. My homeplace, my grandfather bought with the help of my great grandfather in 1947.
What is your earliest ranch memory?
My earliest ranch memory is getting run over by a cow in our branding pen.
What’s your best ranch memory that you hold close?
Those would be memories of our family together at branding and weaning.
Horses or Quads?
Well, it used to be all horses and now it’s both. So, my answer would be both.
Favourite beef breed?
Favourite cut of beef?
How do you like it done?
Favourite rodeo event?
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us. In closing what are your plans post-politics?
To return home to the farm, raise my kids and hopefully make it up to my wife.