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Budget to include $1.55B in ag and rural funding

(Resource News International) — The 2009 budget to be unveiled Jan. 27 by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has pencilled in $1.55
billion in funding for agricultural programs and rural
communities, according to statements by Agriculture
Minister Gerry Ritz in a media conference Friday.

Ritz said the government has earmarked $500 million for
an Agricultural Flexibility plan, $50 million to fund new
slaughterhouse initiatives in Canada and $1 billion for a
Community Adjustment Fund.

Few details about the funding or the programs were shared

during the conference. Those will be provided on Tuesday when
the full budget is outlined, Ritz said.

The announcement of funding for a “flexibility plan”
follows calls for a federally-funded agriculture program that
allows provinces and territories the flexibility to distribute
money according to their requirements.

The plan will complement the four existing pillars of the
Conservatives’ “Growing Forward” agriculture framework,
according to Ritz.

“It will drive innovation, environmental change, marketing
opportunities and we’re looking for new and better ways to
control input costs. This will be the proactive side rather
the reactive side that the safety nets already provide,” he
said.

The funding for new slaughterhouses will be spread out
over a two- to three-year period and will support Canada’s
livestock industries.

“We’ve allowed a lot of our slaughterhouse capacity to
slide south into the U.S. and COOL (mandatory U.S. country-of-origin labelling)
was a bit of a wake-up call that we need to do more of that

ourselves,” Ritz said. “People all over the world are asking for good
Canadian meat and to do that here makes a lot of sense.”

The Community Adjustment Fund is intended to help rural
communities adjust to the current economic hardship and is
similar to programs announced for rural communities built
around manufacturing and forestry industries, according to
Ritz.

The funding announced Friday will depend on whether the minority Conservative government is able to
successfully pass its highly-anticipated budget on Tuesday.

The House of Commons will resume Monday after having
been prorogued, or suspended, since early December at the
request of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The request was made to Governor General Michaelle Jean
after Canada’s opposition parties formed a coalition and
threatened to topple the newly re-elected government through a
no-confidence vote.

The opposition parties accused the Conservatives of
failing to take adequate steps to combat the economic
downturn.

Since then, the government has said it will unveil
significant economic stimulus measures in its new budget in
the hopes of swaying the Liberal party and avoiding a

parliamentary defeat.

In the event of a no-confidence vote on Tuesday, Jean can either ask the coalition to form the government or call Canada’s third federal election
in four years.

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