British Columbia

Flood damage could cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars, B.C. Agriculture Council says

Many farmers have been unable to return to their farms. Those that have are returning to massive destruction, said the president of the B.C. Agriculture Council.

It could take as long as a year for some farms to begin operating again, council president says

Debris litters a road in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford, B.C., on Nov. 22. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The road to recovery for B.C. farmers will be long and expensive, according to president of B.C. Agriculture Council. 

"I think we're talking hundreds of millions of dollars of damage," said Stan Vanderwaal of the devastation caused by recent catastrophic flooding in southwest B.C., especially in the agricultural area of the Fraser Valley. 

Sumas Prairie, which occupies a large swath of east Abbotsford, has been under an evacuation order since Nov. 16 due to the floods, which were triggered by historic rainfall. 

Vanderwaal said while he expects some farms could potentially find a way to operate again within a month or so, others will likely take between six months to a year to fully recover. 

Many farmers have been unable to return to their farms. Those that have are returning to massive destruction, said Vanderwaal. 

He said he spoke to a farmer who had 600 acres of crops in the ground that had yet to be harvested and are now lost after being underwater for over a week. 

The B.C. Dairy Association recently said that about 500 cattle died in the Fraser Valley flooding, based on a preliminary assessment. They said this number could increase. 

WATCH | A farmer in Chilliwack describes the toll of flooding:

Chilliwack farmer describes the toll of dealing with his flooded farm

1 year ago
Duration 0:32
Derek Lewis says flooding at his Chilliwack duck and chicken farm has caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. He’s now preparing for another round of possible flooding.

In addition to losing crops and animals, many farmers have lost expensive technology, much of which involves electrical components that don't respond well to water damage. 

"Things that may work now, in the future will also become problematic because once they're wet, of course there is an end-of-life a lot quicker on that kind of technology," Vanderwaal said. 

Moreover, not only have many farmers lost their livelihoods, but they have also lost their homes. 

"What do they go home to? They don't have a home to go to," Vanderwaal said.

'We will rebuild'

Dave Martens, a poultry farmer in Sumas Prairie, said he lost around half of his birds in the flood. 

"Forty thousand birds have died in my barn. They're under six feet of water right now and who knows what it's going to be like once we get back in there," Martens said.

He said he expects a long recovery process and there will be much to do after the water comes down, including drying out the barn, tearing out the insulation and replacing electrical systems. 

Nevertheless, he believes farmers in Sumas Prairie will get through this disaster. 

"As farmers, we're resourceful, we'll figure this out. We're fighters. We will recover, we will rebuild." 

The B.C. Agriculture Council is accepting donations to help out farmers in need. Vanderwaal said they hope to fill in the gaps left by government and private insurance. 

The B.C. Agriculture Council is a non-profit organization that advocates for and provides support and resources to farmers in the province. 

With files from The Early Edition and On The Coast

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