B.C. announces $228M in flood relief for farmers

The province has announced more funding for B.C. farmers still struggling following November's flooding. The funding will cover costs that insurance will not, like animal care and loss of crops.

B.C. has announced $228 million for farmers impacted by last November’s historic floods.

The Canada-BC Flood Recovery for Food Security Program includes funding from the province and makes use of the federal government’s AgriRecovery Framework and Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA). It’s being billed as the largest recovery program for the sector in the province’s history.

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said the last few months have been “incredibly difficult” for farmers, with more than 1,100 farms under evacuation order or alert and 15,000 hectares of farmland impacted at the height of the crisis. She said the total damage across the province could be about $285 million.

“We’ve worked closely with farmers and farming organizations to make sure we have a comprehensive response that will support their recovery, help them get their farms back in production, and continue our collective efforts to build a resilient food system and food economy in B.C.,” Popham said Monday.

The support funding for farmers includes covering costs of some uninsurable infrastructure, animal care, loss of perennial crops such as blueberries not raised for resale, and restoring impacted areas.

“The B.C. agricultural community has pulled together and demonstrated its strength and determination in the face of devastating floods,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “There is still a long way to go, but the Government of Canada will continue to work with the Government of British Columbia to support our farmers. We are here to help them rebuild so they can quickly get back to doing what they do best: producing high-quality food for Canadians.”

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Farmers who have already started repairs are being told to keep their receipts, track the hours of work involved, and take pictures documenting the damage and repairs to support their application. They can apply online and get one-on-one assistance in English and Punjabi by emailing agrirecovery@gov.bc.ca or calling 1-888-332-3352.

Those who have already applied for the DFAA will be getting a call from the province in the next couple days.

Popham says 20 people are on staff to help process applications.

“There are some very desperate situations right now and farmers need cash now,” she said. “And so we’re going to be able to give interim payments quickly and get that cash into their pockets so that they can start buying things like electrical supplies, etc.”

Record rains combined with overflowing rivers swamped farmland in several areas of the province, killing thousands of animals and destroying countless crops.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has said the November storms were the most costly severe weather event in B.C.’s history with an insured value loss of about $450 million, although that doesn’t factor in the damage to several highways and other infrastructure or the cost to those who were uninsured. The majority of farmers CityNews has spoken with are not eligible for insurance.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun has said an estimated 1,200 acres of blueberry fields were destroyed in November. In addition to these lost crops, he estimated about 4,000 tonnes of stored and unharvested field vegetables were lost, as were more than 620,000 chickens, 420 cattle, and 12,000 hogs.

With files from Monika Gul, Crystal Laderas, and The Canadian Press

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