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Ottawa gives farmers affected by train grain backlog more time to repay advances

OTTAWA - The federal government is giving grain producers hit in the wallet by rail transportation delays more time to pay back cash advances.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says producers who have not been able to sell their crops because of the grain backlog can repay their outstanding advances by March 31 instead of September 30.

The six month stay of default will apply to producers who received an advance on their 2013 crops through the Canadian Canola Growers Association.

Agriculture Canada says the grain crop last year was 50 per cent higher than average and put significant pressure on the western grain handling and rail transportation system.

Under the advance payment program, producers can receive cash advances of up to $400,000 on the value of their agricultural product.

The Canadian Canola Growers Association administers advances for a wide range of crops including barley, canola, durum, flax and wheat.

"This extra time will give producers a bit of breathing room to sell their 2013 crop and meet their financial obligations," Ritz said Thursday in a release.

Brett Halstead, president of the Canadian Canola Growers Association, said the six-month extension will ease some of the financial strain that many farmers are facing.

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