Hog and cattle farmers can get the extension they want on loans from the federal government if they are willing to pay a default penalty, says Agriculture Canada.
The federal Advanced Payments Program lent thousands of farmers across Canada hundreds of millions of dollars in 2008. The program came at a time when markets for pork and beef were down and was meant to help farmers find new marketing opportunities.
Repayment was scheduled to start last fall but Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz extended the loans 18 months for cattle farmers and 30 months for hog farmers.
Provincial and federal agriculture critics have been asking the federal government for a further extension of at least 10 years. Farmers say repayment would put them out of business.
In an email to CBC News, Agricultural Canada said that extension is already available. The farmers simply have to pay a default penalty on their loans. Paying the default would give beef farmers up to nine years and hog farmers up to 10 years to repay.
The money was never intended as a long-term loan, the department said.
There are 2,485 cattle producers in the program, who owe $196 million, and 1,621 hog producers, who owe $262 million.