OTTAWA, ONTARIO — The Harper Government's Economic Action Plan supports the livestock sector by making meat packing and processing facilities more competitive and accessible to farmers across the country, according to a news release. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture) Jean-Pierre Blackburn announced the three-year, C$50-million Slaughter Improvement Program is now in place and will soon be accepting applications.

"By improving processing, we're helping to help create a greater demand for livestock and better prices for farmers," Mr. Ritz said.

"We are addressing regional gaps in this sector by providing new marketing options and lower transportation costs in areas where limited access to meat packing and processing facilities is affecting the growth of the sector," Mr. Blackburn added.

The program will make federal repayable contributions available to support investments made by the private sector and other levels of government in sound business plans aimed at reducing costs, increasing revenues and improving operations of meat-packing and processing operations in Canada. Investing in a stronger meat packing and processing industry in Canada benefits the entire value chain and leads to a more profitable and competitive industry and a stronger economy.

Meat processing is responsible for US$18.2 billion in annual sales for Canadian livestock farmers.

Program details will be published in coming weeks and application forms will be available by the end of June.