AS farmers await details on the provincial and federal governments’ pending Agri-Recovery package, many are expressing concerns about its potential limitations as they try to make plans to restore their operations which were devastated in last November’s floods, say the BC Liberals.
“Our farmers are distraught,” said Opposition Agriculture and Food Critic Ian Paton, MLA for Delta South, on Tuesday. “Their barns and homes were filled with three to seven feet of water and they lost livestock, poultry, feed, and crops to this disaster. They also saw equipment failures and face expensive repairs because of this catastrophic flooding. They need help now, and they haven’t been encouraged by the response they’ve received so far.”
Many farmers say they have tried to apply for Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) but have been told they technically don’t qualify for any support because their farms are incorporated and bring in more than $1 million in annual sales. With private insurance and DFA nearing exhaustion, farmers will now be keeping a close eye on the Agri-Recovery package set to be announced soon but they have a lot of questions.
Paton has sent a letter to Agriculture Minister Lana Popham to try to get answers to some of their inquiries, such as:
* When it comes to repairs and rebuilding, will farmers first have to find the funds to pay out of their own pockets? Or will they be able to submit estimates for repairs to get funds advanced and then submit receipts for completed work?
* Blueberry growers have received professional advice from expert horticulturalists that their plants will never return to previous production levels and must be replaced. Do government officials agree with that assessment, and will farmers be compensated if they move forward with replacing those plants?
“I implore the minister to find a way to improve the eligibility criteria and ensure these farmers can get the funds they need to restore their operations, some of which have been in their families for generations,” said Paton. “If we truly value farmers and understand their business, then we cannot allow government structure to impede their recovery.”