B.C. to provide $80 million to help farmers cope with drought

B.C. to provide $80 million to help farmers cope with drought
The British Columbia government says it is better equipping farmers to deal with drought, supplying $80 million in funding for irrigation. Dry needles on a grand fir tree are shown in the Cowichan Valley area of Duncan, B.C., on July 31, 2021.

Unprecedented drought in British Columbia last year has prompted the provincial government to invest $80 million to help manage, collect and store water for crops and livestock.

Premier David Eby made the announcement while inside a bell pepper greenhouse in Delta, B.C., saying this summer’s drought may be even worse than last year as snow levels remain “remarkably” low.

He says climate change-related events, particularly drought, make it tough for farmers to secure enough water for animals, feed and crops, which makes grocery prices soar.

The funding will be distributed through the Agricultural Water Infrastructure Program to help make irrigation more efficient and to build infrastructure to improve water availability and storage.

The program was launched last year with a $20-million contribution for 108 water storage projects, including building agricultural dams and dugouts to improve water-supply systems for irrigation and livestock.

The province says the funding expansion should benefit hundreds more farmers as they prepare for another potential drought, while it improves stream flows and fish populations.

Eby says the cost of failing to act to counter climate change to support farmers is huge and accumulating.

“We can’t sit by and let our farmers struggle with a lack of water or a lack of money to replant those fruit trees and those fruit plants and those vines that drive so many critical infrastructures with varieties that can survive rapid temperature swings that we’ve seen,” Eby told the conference.

“So we have to take action for our farmers. If we don’t, we are going to be very hungry in British Columbia.”

Farmers can apply for funding starting next month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2024.

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