British Columbia

B.C. grain farmers struggling as historic drought continues in province's northeast

Early this month, B.C.'s Ministry of Forests made an announcement encouraging all water users across northeastern B.C. to take voluntary water conservation measures and monitor their water supply in light of a Level 5 drought.

Precipitation this October was 9.8 mm, a sharp drop from 41.2 mm in October 2020

Drought is impacting grain farmers in northeastern B.C. (Nati Harnik/Associated Pres)

A grain farmer near Fort St. John says he and other growers are struggling as drought conditions continue to impact northeastern B.C., resulting in some of their poorest yields in years.

"There was very little crop because everything got dried out," Malcolm Odermatt, a farmer and president of the B.C. Grain Producers Association, told CBC's Betsy Trumpener.

"The plants went into survival mode … we're not going to do a big yield. We're just going to get a few seeds. We had absolutely no rain."

Severe drought conditions

According to provincial figures, roughly 80 per cent of B.C. grain production occurs in the Peace, with most product prepared for export.

But very little rain has fallen in the region over the past months, prompting warnings and restrictions over water use. 

The weather has been so dry that last week the province issued the highest drought warning, Level 5 — meaning adverse impacts of droughts are almost certain — in four northeastern regions, including Fort Nelson Basin, North Peace Basin, East Peace Basin and South Peace Basin.

Historical weather data from Environment and Climate Change Canada shows that the total precipitation, including rain and snow, in Fort St. John this October was 9.8 millimetres, a drop from 11.4 millimetres in October 2021 and 41.2 millimetres in October 2020.

As of this Monday, there have been only 3.3 millimetres of precipitation in the northeastern municipality this month.

The B.C. government has issued a Level 5 drought warning to four regions in the northeastern part of the province. (B.C. Drought Information Portal)

Odermatt says his 2,000-acre farm doesn't have a sprinkler system, and he foresees that farmers' income won't be great this season due to how dry the soil is amid the drought.

"I dug down 15 feet, and it was bone dry, like powder," he said. "There was no moisture in it."

The province has also issued a Level 4 drought warning — meaning adverse impacts of the drought are likely to happen — to three regions, including Finlay Basin and Parsnip Basin in the north and on the Sunshine Coast.

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Winston Szeto

Digital journalist

Winston Szeto is a journalist with CBC News based in Kelowna, B.C. in the unceded territories of the Syilx. He writes stories about new immigrants and LGBTQ communities. He has contributed to CBC investigative journalism programs Marketplace and The Fifth Estate. Winston speaks Cantonese and Mandarin fluently and has a working knowledge of German and Japanese. He came to Canada in 2018 from Hong Kong, and is proud to be Canadian. Send him tips at

With files from Betsy Trumpener