Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz listened to questions and concerns from a selection of area producers during his recent visit to Central Alberta.Ritz, who serves as MP for the Battlesfords-Lloydminister riding, met with producers for a two-hour roundtable session at Carstairs Memorial Complex March 11.Doug Robertson, who is a member of the Western Barley Growers Association and has a mixed farm near Carstairs, said the meeting was a positive experience.ìIt was a good chance to talk directly to the ag minister,î Robertson said.ìI was quite impressed by how he seemed to be pretty well-versed on everything. There were no questions that stumped him. He knew the ins and outs of all the agricultural portfolios.ìIt's helpful to talk to somebody who actually knows what you're talking about and what you're going through. He suffered through some of the same problems from when he was farming.îWild Rose MP Blake Richards said when Ritz was slated to be in the area to attend the recent Olds College Gala, he asked for a meeting with producers from the region.Richards regularly meets with a gathering of 15 to 20 farmers from within his riding to get their insight on federal government proposals related to agriculture, and concerns related to the challenges of their industry. The producers belong to a variety of farming types, including dairy, beef, grain, poultry and mixed.ìI set these panels up because I knew it would be a valuable thing and I think (Ritz) feels the same way,î Richards said.ìWhat it really boils down, (for) decisions made at the government level ñ although he's a farmer himself ñ you need to hear from people who are actively involved.ìThe best thing you can do is sit down with farmers and say ëOK, here's some of the things we've done. What do you think? If you don't ask people's opinion, you'll never know if what you're doing is the right things.îSome of the topics discussed at the meeting included expanding trade markets, the Canadian Wheat Board, and the CP Rail review.