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P.E.I. farmers call for rapid infusion of cash for struggling red meat sector

CHARLOTTETOWN -- A Prince Edward Island farmer wants a rapid infusion of federal cash -- rather than another study group -- to help the struggling red meat industry.

CHARLOTTETOWN -- A Prince Edward Island farmer wants a rapid infusion of federal cash -- rather than another study group -- to help the struggling red meat industry.

Peter Verleun, chairman of the Island's Cattle Producers Board, said Thursday that the number of cattle is down more than 30 per cent across the Island.

At his own farm, the herd is down by 75 per cent, from 100 head to 25.

He says farmers don't need "another working group," to discuss this kind of decline.

"It's been downhill for a very long time," said Verleun.

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"I wish they'd just buckle down and do something."

P.E.I. Agriculture Minister George Webster and Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Gerry Ritz met in Ottawa last week to discuss issues facing the Prince Edward Island red meat sector, including farmers who produce hogs, cattle, and sheep, lamb and goats for the Canadian market.

The ministers agreed on the need for flexible programming.

They also agreed to form a working group, including federal, provincial and industry representatives from the region, to explore options to deal with current issues facing the red meat sector.

That group will discuss possible programming under the recently announced $500 million Agricultural Flexibility Fund.

Canadian farmers say they feel they are at a disadvantage because their costs are significantly higher than their U.S. counterparts due to Canadian regulations.

Amidst the calls for rapid assistance, the politicians say they remain hopeful that a solution can be found.

"The Government of Canada is working hard to help our farmers keep their competitive edge and increase their profitability," said Ritz.

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Webster said, "we will continue to explore mechanisms through which policies can be tailored to work better for our producers."

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