Peace region farmers face countless challenges, from weather to resource development, but there was some good news this week with the announcement of funding that should boost the resilience of the sector.
Seven projects will receive nearly $210,000 in the first disbursement of cash from the BC Hydro Peace Agricultural Compensation Fund. BC Hydro established the $20 million fund in 2018 to offset impacts on agriculture from the construction of the Site C dam, which will flood thousands of acres of protected farmland.
The fund, administered by the Northern Development Initiative Trust, is chaired by Rick Kantz.
The largest grant in the initial round of funding from the compensation fund is $100,000 to support BC Grain Producers Association projects assessing grain and oilseed varieties suitable to the Peace.
The research is particularly important as growers wrestle with a changing and more variable climate. Publicly funded research to help producers identify promising varieties is tough to secure. While the industry does undertake trials of new varieties, they’re limited in scope.
“It’s still a challenge to get funds to be able to plant them in BC, because BC is a small producer in the grain industry in Canada,” Kantz told Country Life in BC recently.
A variety of crop management and education initiatives also received funding.
RDR Ventures Ltd. received $25,209 to expand the irrigation system at Rainey Ranch, an investment that will improve its grazing capabilities, while Ardills Ranch Ltd. received $25,000 to build a wildlife control fence.
On the education front, the Northern Environmental Action Team received $27,112 for a Northern Cohort Extension and Outreach Program to provide educational opportunities for alternative agricultural production in the Peace Region. Blackbird Environmental Ltd. received $24,140 to establish a program to train farm workers in the use of drones as farm management tools.
Younger learners will also benefit, thanks to funding for an agriculture education program at the Don Titus Montessori school in Chetwynd that will introduce students up to Grade 7 to “the unique experience of gardening in northern BC.”
A grant of $2,000 to the Peace River Regional 4-H Council will provide opportunities for youth communication and leadership training in agriculture-related projects.
Applications are now being received for a second disbursement in 2020. A total of $291,000 is available to applicants. To apply, visit http://bit.do/Site-C-fund-2020.