As waters recede some dairy farmers impacted by flooding have begun the long process of assessing damage and beginning cleanup. Others remain evacuated from their properties, their cattle being cared for by farmers in the Lower Mainland.
As of today, six dairy farms remain under evacuation order, down from 62 farms at the peak of this emergency. Another 53 farms remain under evacuation alert. Those farmers still evacuated have been away from their homes and operations for more than three weeks.
Farmers able to return to their properties are assessing damage to their homes, barns, fields, equipment, and stored feed. Cleanup and debris removal is underway on many farms with the help of neighbours and community members volunteering their time. Access to water has been restored for farms in the evacuation zone, with water testing taking place where needed to ensure it is safe for both cattle and farmers to drink. Cattle on previously flooded farms are being cared for, with feed trucks and other essential services now able to access all farms where cattle are present.
An initial assessment of damage by BC Dairy has determined it will likely cost well over $100 million for all impacted dairy farms to fully recover. Recovery will require all available resources, including help from the provincial and federal governments, particularly on items where insurance is not available.
“We are so grateful for the many donations and hours of volunteer help from our neighbours and community.” says Holger Schwichtenberg, chair of the BC Dairy Association and an Agassiz dairy farmer. “It is becoming clear the scale of damage is enormous, and farmers will need all the assistance available to them to get back on their feet. We are in regular contact with the government on this and appreciate the commitments that have been made so far.”
BC Dairy flood recovery fund
BC Dairy has established a flood recovery fund in response to interest from Canadians coast-to-coast, farmers in other regions, and the broader farming community. All funds collected will be distributed directly to affected farmers to support their recovery.
Monetary donations to date exceed $629,000, with new donations since BC Dairy’s last update including:
- $100,00 from Vitalus, an Abbotsford-based speciality milk processor;
- Several donations from dairy producer regions, representing and funded by local dairy farmers, including:
- $100,000 from Mainland Milk Producers;
- $12,000 from Kootenay Milk Producers;
- $15,000 from the Kamloops Okanagan Dairy Association;
- $10,000 from the Western Dairy Council, an association of dairy processors
The BC Milk Marketing Board suspended milk pickup from farms in many regions at the peak of the flood, due to extensive road closures and transportation challenges. Pickup started resuming within about 48 hours of the initial atmospheric river event, and is now at close to 100 percent. Raw milk from northern BC farms is being shipped to Alberta for processing, while milk from other parts of the BC Interior is being processed within BC. Highway closures and reduced capacity on open routes continues to slow transport, resulting in some delays in getting milk to processing plants.
“With two of the three highways between Metro Vancouver and the Interior still closed, all of us are relying on Highway 3 for the transport of food and other essential items,” Schwichtenberg says. “It is important we all respect the restriction on non-essential travel at this time so that routes can be maintained as a corridor for essential goods and services.”
Support for BC dairy farmers
BC Dairy continues to work with farmers to coordinate support in many areas, including delivery of feed and other essential items until their own supply can be re-established.
The mental health and wellbeing of dairy farmers is also a top priority, with many facing extensive damage to both their homes and businesses. BC Dairy and the Ministry of Agriculture have put programs in place to ensure support is readily available to any farmers who need it.
About BC Dairy Association
BC Dairy is a not-for-profit association that represents BC’s 470 dairy farmers. The association supports the growth and long-term business success of BC’s dairy farms. BC Dairy represents BC in a strong national dairy system committed to providing Canada with high quality, responsibly farmed, healthy dairy products. BC Dairy takes direction from a Board of elected and appointed dairy producer representatives, and is operated by a staff team.