Industry stakeholders applaud interest-relief program
COLLINGWOOD - Not everyone is so enthusiastic with a new government program aimed at helping beef farmers through a number of ongoing challenges faced by the industry.
Soon after Agriculture Minister John MacDonell announced the $2-milion Nova Scotia Beef Interest Pay-Down Program, Collingwood beef farmer Kurt Sherman panned the program saying it won't do enough to help those farmers on the verge of going out of business.
"It looks like a load crap, mostly," Sherman said. "I checked out it and it doesn't look like it will help me one bit. They're making big fanfare out this, but I doubt I could get it if I wanted it."
Sherman, who resigned from the Nova Scotia Cattle Producers Association in the fall because of a lack of action by the government, said the program should help those farmers who aren't hurting as much. He said small farms and hobby farmers will definitely benefit from the assistance.
The program will provide three years interest relief for eligible beef farmers on their short-term loans.
Richard Melvin of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture is applauding the program.
"We have witnessed the tremendous hurt which terrible market conditions have inflicted upon our beef farmers over the past several years. We are pleased that the cattle producers association have shown great discipline in working with the department to obtain this support for beef farmers over the next several years," Melvin, the president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, said.
The program will be delivered beginning Jan. 26 by the federation. Farmers can file a one-page application, complete with signatures from their financial lenders to have interst paid on their short-term loans for 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Cattle producers president Dave Oulton said farmers are facing tremendous pressure to stay in business and feels this program will be a huge help.
"This is clearly a statement of interim support for a rural industry by the people of Nova Scotia. We appreciate that this support carries with it the challenge to identify and implement long-term production strategies leading to stability for our sector ands afe, locally sourced beef for our province," said Oulton.
MacDonell pledged to support beef farmers soon after taking office but was criticized in some circles for taking too long to deliver.
Sherman said the program doesn't give farmers what they need most, operating cash and doesn't address terrible market conditions in which cull cows are running around the same price as 1976.
Sherman said local producers have to get a slice of the retail market and that means consumers have to be willing to pay a little more to get beef they know is locally-produced.