Canada gives aid to cattle and hog farmers

Fri Dec 14, 2007 3:28pm EST
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By Roberta Rampton

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canadian cattle and hog farmers, struggling with high feed costs and low prices, will have access to a total of C$3.8 billion ($3.73 billion) in loans and aid early in 2008, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said on Friday.

Federal and provincial governments will provide C$2.3 billion in secured loan guarantees to the livestock sector, including C$1 billion in new credit, Ritz told reporters.

Loans will be capped at C$400,000 per producer, and the first C$100,000 will be interest-free, he said.

In addition, governments will accelerate access to C$1.5 billion in support programs, Ritz said.

Ritz said the programs will help livestock farmers weather poor returns brought on by record grain prices, poor meat prices, and the surging Canadian dollar, which has hurt the export value of meat and livestock.

"We've seen these peaks and valleys before; they've struggled through. It's a matter of the government giving them the help at the time," he said.

Ritz said the aid, which will be delivered through existing government programs, would comply with Canada's trade agreements, and he said he discussed them on Thursday with Chuck Conner, the acting U.S. agriculture secretary.

Livestock groups have been lobbying governments for weeks for help to cover mounting losses.   Continued...