B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says she will tour farms in the flood-devastated Sumas Prairie on Friday with federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, as a federal-provincial effort to contribute to recovery takes shape.
“We do have provincial insurance programs, people have private insurance, but then there are these gaps that show up in a disaster,” Popham told CFAX radio in Victoria Dec. 6. “We’re trying to accumulate a giant list of what those gaps could be, and then put it forward to the federal government to see if they will help fund that program.
“The minister of agriculture federally, Minister Bibeau, will be meeting me on the ground in the Fraser Valley on Friday, and we’re going to go around and meet some of the farmers and just talk about the issue at hand.”
The B.C. government has extended its registration deadline for the AgriStability program, a crop insurance and income protection system. Farmers who have not enrolled for losses in 2021 now have until the end of 2022 to do so. Affected farmers should contact AgriServiceBC at 1-888-221-7141 to indicate their needs.
The work of clearing and cleaning up homes and barns has begun. The B.C. ministry has identified more than 800 affected farms in the Fraser Valley, with 626,000 dead chickens and other poultry, 12,000 hogs and more than 400 dairy cattle that have died since Sumas Prairie flooded after torrential rains in mid-November.
Popham said she has been contacted by farmers after touring the area with ministry staff several times since the flood. There have been stories of kindness and help among the tragedies, including members of the Abbotsford Rugby Association turning up to help a dairy farmer clean his barn, she said.
“This weekend many of those farmers went into their homes for the first time,” Popham said. “The water has receded enough. And I got quite a few texts from folks who said they’ve gone through quite a few things in their lives, and this has been the worst thing, going back to their homes and sorting through their stuff that’s been destroyed. But at the end of those texts they say they’re going to get through it, and I believe them. They’re very resilient.”