Feds to Alberta ranchers: help is coming for herds quarantined over bovine TB

Up to $16.7 million is being made available to help ranchers

The government is offering relief for Alberta ranchers caught in the bovine tuberculosis quarantine affecting parts of western Canada.

Up to $16.7 million is being made available to help ranchers, under an agreement with Alberta's Agriculture and Forestry ministry, federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay told the House of Commons on Wednesday.

More than 40 ranches in Alberta and Saskatchewan have been caught by the quarantine, which began after American agriculture officials notified the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that tuberculosis had been detected in a cow from Alberta when it was slaughtered in the U.S.

"We are committed to helping these ranchers while we take the appropriate measures to clear the industry of this disease,'' MacAulay told the Commons.

The money is meant to help cover the extra costs producers are facing because of the quarantine, which prevents them from selling their stock.

Over 22,000 cattle have been placed under quarantine. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Monday that roughly 10,000 of the animals at 18 locations were deemed "high risk'' for transmitting bovine TB and would be put down—including calves that were not being tested for the contagious disease.

The federal aid will help with feed for the animals, transportation, cleaning and disinfection as well as interest costs on loans, MacAulay said.

Some ranchers have been pleading for government help, warning that they face bankruptcy over the costs of caring for animals they cannot send to market.

MacAulay said governments will work with the industry and producers to ensure the money flows simply and quickly.

Producers facing cash flow pressures can also access aid through the Advance Payments Program, which provides advance loans of up to $400,000, with the first $100,000 being interest free.

"This commitment is an important step in providing our producers with the support they need,'' Alberta Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier, said in a joint statement with MacAulay.

Officials were continuing to monitor the situation in Saskatchewan, where fewer farm properties are affected by quarantine orders, the statement said.

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