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Dairy farmers strapped for cash and in some cases about to lose their businesses over a trade dispute with Canada could apply for loan guarantees from a state agency, Gov. Scott Walker announced Tuesday.

The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority is offering dairy farmers and processors better terms on loan guarantees from now until August.

"This is a difficult time for many of Wisconsin's dairy farm families due to Canada's trade policies, and we're going to do everything we can to help them," Walker said in a statement.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said he hopes the changes will encourage processors to make investments to accommodate more milk.

But they are no immediate help to farmers who will have nowhere to send their milk starting Monday as the result of being dropped by Grassland Dairy Products — a Greenwood company that said it recently lost its Canadian business when Canada changed its dairy pricing policies.

Some of those farmers have said they'll have no choice but to sell their cows and shut down if they don't find new buyers for their milk very soon.

Farms in New York and Minnesota have also been swept up in the crisis.

WHEDA has offered small-business loan guarantees since 1983, helping business owners gain access to low-cost capital.

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