British Columbia

Governments providing $228M to help B.C. farmers recover after floods

The federal and provincial governments are providing a joint $228 million package to help farmers and ranchers in B.C. recover after devastating floods last November. 

Funding covers cleanup, rebuilding, animal welfare and perennial crop replacement, minister says

Dairy farmer Chelsea Meier is pictured at her farm, U & D Meier Dairy, in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford, B.C., on Nov. 29. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Farmers and ranchers whose land was submerged or swept away by devastating floods in B.C. last fall will receive a combined $228 million from the federal and provincial governments to help with recovery, officials announced Monday.

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham billed the program Monday as the largest recovery program of its kind in provincial history.

"We have been working shoulder to shoulder, governments and farmers, to assess the damage and get farmers the support they need to get back on their feet," Popham said during a news conference.

"We are looking at the serious cases in front of us and making sure those cheques roll out ASAP."

Popham said the funding will cover four main categories that aren't covered by private insurance or existing government programs:

  • Cleanup, repair and restoration of flood-affected land to bring it back to a point where it's safe for agricultural production.
  • Repairing uninsurable farm infrastructure.
  • Animal welfare, including replacement feed, livestock transportation and veterinary care.
  • The loss of perennial plants not raised for resale, like blueberries.
Home are pictured surrounded by floodwaters in the Sumas Prairie flood zone Abbotsford, B.C., on Nov. 22. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In terms of applying for the funding, Popham said farmers who have already applied for Disaster Financial Assistance "will be getting a call from the ministry" about the new federal-provincial program.

For farmers who didn't apply for the disaster assistance, Popham said an application portal for the new funding should open Monday.

Popham said ministry staff will work "one on one" with each particular farm to get the money out "as soon as possible," but did not provide a precise timeline.

Mark Siemens, President of the B.C. Egg Producers Association, says needs for farmers range from help with cleanup to an entire rebuild of some facilities. Cleanup costs alone were in the tens of thousands of dollars for every farm, Siemens added.

He said his farmers are grateful for the funding from the province and federal government.

"It's not going to make farmers whole, but it's going to get them back on their feet and ready to keep going forward, so we're really thankful for that," he told CBC's The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

Both the federal and provincial governments said its staff designed the program based on feedback from farmers and ranchers in B.C. about what they needed to start recovering. 

"Farmers are used to being the ones who help — who provide for others. I know they're thankful for what's being provided but really want to get cleaned up, rebuilt and back to work," B.C. Dairy's general manager, Jeremy Dunn, said during the news conference Monday.

Roughly 15,000 hectares of farmland from the Fraser Valley to the Interior were affected by the flooding in November, Popham said.

Thousands of farm animals died when high water overran the Sumas Prairie region of the Fraser Valley. Popham said about 7,500 tonnes of unharvested vegetables such as cabbages, carrots and cauliflower were also lost. 

Another 2,500 acres of fruit crop were damaged, according to the B.C. Blueberry Council.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has said the storms were the most costly severe weather event in B.C.'s history with an insured value loss of about $450 million, but that doesn't account for massive damage to infrastructure — including several key highways — or any losses that were uninsured.

With files from The Early Edition and The Canadian Press