The first few weeks of the growing season have seen BC farmers face unseasonal heat, wildfires and flooding.
The events have underscored the importance of the Extreme Weather Preparedness for Agriculture program, which the province piloted last summer. The pilot is continuing this spring, with an additional infusion of up to $2.5 million.
The new funding will support an expanded scope that includes provincially licensed apiculture and aquaculture producers, as well as federally licensed cannabis and hemp producers.
“Climate change and extreme weather pose an array of challenges for people throughout British Columbia, including our farmers, ranchers and food producers,” a statement from BC agriculture minister Pam Alexis says of the rationale for the new funding.
The program has four streams focused on building a more resilient and sustainable agriculture and food sector by helping producers prepare for future climate events, such as wildfires, flooding and heatwaves.
The streams address preparedness for wildfires, flooding and extreme heat.
A fourth stream invites proposals for innovative projects that address a demonstrated need related to impacts from climate change. Projects “must have a significant element of ‘public interest’ and assist in achieving the items in the Minister of Agriculture and Food’s Mandate letter,” the province says. These applications will be considered after projects in the initial three streams.
The first year saw more than $1.4 million awarded to 129 projects in the poultry, dairy, beef, tree fruit and berry sectors. Barn cooling systems, which emerged as a priority for dairy and poultry producers during the June 2021 heat dome, were among the top projects funded.
“The welfare of our animals is the No. 1 concern for BC farmers when we’re faced with extreme weather,” says Abbotsford farmer Mark Siemens, president of the BC Egg Producers Association whose members lost 150,000 birds during the heat dome. “This funding will ensure we’re able to better prepare for and mitigate future extreme weather events.”
The funding, administered directly by the province, rewards advocacy efforts by the BC Agriculture Council on behalf of producers across the province.
“BC Agriculture Council has advocated for more support for industry in this area and is pleased to see this funding is already making a difference for the agriculture sector,” says BCAC executive director Danielle Synotte.
Applicants can access up to $35,000 in cost-shared funding in the current intake, which closes June 14, 2023.