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Aid coming for flood-struck B.C. livestock, vegetable farmers

Berry, vegetable fields to be assessed, $1M for emergency feed
Aerial view of aftermath of flooding near Princeton B.C., Dec. 3, 2021. Farms in the Similkameen, Nicola and eastern Fraser Valley were heavily damaged by flooding in mid-November. (B.C. government photo)

B.C. farmers affected by flooding from November’s record rain should save receipts and records and take photos of their damage as the federal and provincial governments prepare emergency aid for them, Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said Wednesday.

Farmers in the Fraser Valley and livestock producers in the Nicola Valley around Merritt are in urgent need of assistance, with emergency feed being arranged for livestock funded by $1 million in provincial aid, Popham said at a flood recovery briefing from Victoria Dec. 15. The B.C. Forage Council and the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association are coordinating shipments of feed to animals.

Popham said she is meeting Monday with blueberry growers who are concerned about the survival of their berry bushes, which often have standing water in fields in winter. Older blueberry plants have a better chance of survival, but “we have a lot of new plantings that won’t make it,” Popham said.

Meetings will be to help farmers apply for the various provincial and federal relief programs, and gather information from them on the changing local conditions, she said. Farmers are being directed to apply to the federal AgriRecovery program to assist where private insurance and B.C.’s AgriStability assistance leave gaps in the rescue effort.

Evaluating the extensive vegetable farms in the Fraser Valley will take longer, since some are still underwater and most farms are covered with a layer of mud. Soil assessment will take place in the next few weeks to determine what areas can be planted or replanted, and where soil remediation is needed.

B.C. officials have toured a land-based fish farm that was destroyed in the Fraser Valley flooding, as well as a blueberry processing plant with water damage to equipment.

Popham related the story of Sumas Prairie dairy farmer Richard Bosma, who began moving his 200 cattle to “buddy farms” in the region as the flooding came in. One of the cows gave birth as soon as it was transferred to a safe farm in Chilliwack, and the cow and calf are expected to return to their home barn on Saturday.

“The buddy farm system made the difference,” Popham said.

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