|LETHBRIDGE, Alberta, March
22, 2004: Prime Minister Paul Martin and Agriculture and
Agri-Food Minister Bob Speller today announced $995 million (note:
dollar amounts are Canadian) in assistance for Canadian farmers
who face historic financial challenges brought on by circumstances
beyond their control. Today's funding will also help producers transition
to new business risk management programming.
"The Canadian cattle and beef industry is a real success story,
but it has been devastated by extended border closures, which are
beyond its control," said Prime Minister Martin. "The
government is providing the industry with this much needed assistance
to help producers manage until borders are fully reopened."
"Farm income across Canada dropped to historic lows in 2003,
affecting all commodities. Canadian farmers face these unprecedented
challenges at the same time that they are moving to a new permanent
income and disaster assistance program," said Minister Speller.
"Today's funding will not only help our cattle producers through
a difficult period but also the whole of the agriculture sector,
which has weathered a number of shocks and unforeseen events in
the last couple of years."
The Transitional Industry Support Program will provide a total
of $680 million to cattle producers who have faced a prolonged closure
of the Canada-US border. The funding will be delivered as a direct
payment of up to $80 per eligible bovine animal on inventory as
of December 31, 2003. Eligible animals will include all bovine animals
except mature bulls and cows (cows that have calved and intact bulls
older than one year). Similar measures will be available for producers
of other ruminants who have lost access to the U.S. market.
The program will also provide $250 million to producers of all
eligible commodities, including the cattle industry, across Canada.
The funding will be delivered as a direct payment to producers based
on their past income information and will act as a bridge to the
new Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) program.
A further $65 million is earmarked to cover the federal government's
share of the shortfall for the 2002 claim year under the Canadian
Farm Income Program (CFIP). CFIP is cost-shared on a 60:40 basis
by federal and provincial governments. In the 2002 program year,
claims to the program exceeded the amount available, due in large
part to drought conditions in western Canada.
The CAIS program is in place across Canada and provides producers
with protection from small and large declines in income, including
in disaster situations. However, it is a new program, and producers
are still in a period of transition as they begin to sign up.
Over the past year, producers have faced many challenges including
the closure of export markets to Canadian beef, an appreciation
of the Canadian dollar, and consecutive droughts in the prairies,
which, along with other factors, have all had a negative impact
on farm income. This situation has caused immediate cash flow problems
for many producers. Cattle producers are facing a particularly severe
situation as borders remain closed following the discovery of a
second North American cow with BSE in December 2003.
The investment announced today will provide producers with interim
assistance until they are able to take full advantage of the CAIS