The Province of British Columbia is joining forces with agricultural partners and other levels of government to assist farmers and ranchers grappling with the severe impacts of wildfires and drought. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food is actively engaging with the BC Dairy, BC Cattlemen’s Association, BC Agriculture Council, and farmers and ranchers on the ground to address their immediate challenges and explore long-term solutions. The government is committed to ensuring the agriculture community receives the support it needs during these trying times.
Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food, emphasized the top priority placed on supporting agriculture producers. Minister Alexis has been in direct contact with farmers and ranchers, gathering insights about the difficulties they’re facing. In close coordination with industry associations and stakeholders, the ministry is actively working to expand existing programs and partnerships, ensuring that farmers and ranchers can access the necessary support even without a provincial state of emergency declaration. These efforts include leveraging the AgriRecovery program, which provides federal-provincial cost-sharing assistance to farms affected by adverse conditions and helps them return to production.
To secure AgriRecovery funding, British Columbia has formally submitted a request to the federal government. Minister Alexis has also engaged with the federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, ensuring that the severity of the situation is recognized at the national level. Acknowledging the importance of federal support, she continues to advocate strongly for the agriculture community, drawing from successful collaborative experiences in addressing previous challenges.
Apart from AgriRecovery, farmers and ranchers can access existing funding programs like AgriStability, which assists in offsetting unexpected income losses. The ministry is working closely with the federal government to implement changes that will further support the agriculture community, including allowing late participation in AgriStability for farms and ranches that missed the April 30th, 2023, deadline, increasing the AgriStability Interim Payment limit from 50% to 75%, facilitating expedited advance payments within ten business days, and establishing a higher write-off level for grain and oilseed crops that can be used as livestock feed.
One critical challenge faced by ranchers and producers is the shortage of feed. This scarcity extends beyond British Columbia and is affecting the entire western Canadian region. In response, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food is collaborating closely with partners on the ground, such as the BC Cattlemen’s Association and BC Dairy, to identify additional feed sources. If additional feed can be secured, it will be distributed to producers in need.
In addition to immediate support, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food has comprehensive programming in place to help farmers adapt to drought, wildfires, and extreme heat conditions. The ministry has introduced initiatives like the Extreme Weather Preparedness for Agriculture Program, the Agriculture Water Infrastructure Program, and increased funding to the Beneficial Management Practices Program. These programs are designed to enhance resilience and risk management, stabilize income, and provide assistance tailored to the specific needs of farmers and ranchers.
To access support programs and resources, farmers, ranchers, and producers are encouraged to contact their respective industry associations or reach out to the AgriService BC helpline at 1-888-221-7141. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food staff is available to guide the agricultural community in accessing the available programs, while regional agrologists are prepared to provide specialized assistance where required. Furthermore, ministry staff are being deployed to the most affected areas, allowing them to engage directly with producers, listen to their concerns, and take appropriate action.
Kevin Boon, the general manager of the BC Cattlemen’s Association, stressed the challenges posed by the drought conditions faced by ranchers. The need for water and feed to support and care for livestock is a pressing issue. Boon highlighted the collaborative efforts between the government and industry stakeholders to find solutions and provide assistance to those in need.
Jeremy Dunn, general manager of the BC Dairy Association, expressed appreciation for the Province’s proactive approach in pursuing an AgriRecovery package. With drought conditions prevalent and severe throughout British Columbia, this support will prove vital in helping dairy farmers navigate what promises to be a challenging harvest season.
The collaborative efforts between the Province of British Columbia, agricultural partners, and other levels of government demonstrate a commitment to supporting farmers and ranchers during times of crisis. By working together, stakeholders aim to provide immediate relief, facilitate long-term recovery, and ensure the resilience of the agriculture community in the face of wildfires and drought.