Merritt, B.C. farmer Rhonda MacDonald was hit by a double whammy of wildfires and floods last year but has yet to receive promised financial aid from federal governments and provincial.
MacDonald, owner of the Bar FX Ranch located between Highway 8 and the Nicola River, was one of the ranchers struggling to save cattle during the evacuation of his home as fires raged in the interior of the British Columbia last summer.
To make matters worse, most of his possessions – like dozens of other farms and homes along the highway – were washed away by river flooding in November.
“It’s been chaotic, to say the least,” MacDonald told host Shelley Joyce on CBC. Sunrise Kamloops. “We ended up losing 20 per cent of our cattle herd and spent six weeks preparing for the fire and trying to round up our cattle, and went from there into the deluge.”
“There was nothing we could do about the flooding, and within 12 hours we saw a lifetime of work floating down the river.”
MacDonald says she lives in limbo and would need about $450,000 to fix the ranch’s fence and $300,000 to fix the ranch’s irrigation system, but she hasn’t heard from the British Columbia government after applying for its AgriRecovery fund.
Last August, the provincial and federal governments announced increased support for the agricultural sector, including an increase of more than $100 million to the joint AgriRecovery program, support for livestock displaced by wildfires and a forest fire emergency supply to provide two weeks of support for commercial enterprises. livestock enterprises without animal feed.
Help for Ranchers, Farmers & beekeepers is available now: $20 million for livestock feed, shelter, health & transportation due to forest fires & drought. Apply here: https://t.co/taXMNXrUwf Learn more here: https://t.co/a6clKTLFEq
The British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture told CBC in a written statement that requests for AgriRecovery wildfire-related relief will be accepted from operators of reporting farms until January 31. Meanwhile, more than 130 farmers have received a total of $5.2 million. from the program.
The ministry also says the AgriRecovery program will be open for applications for flood-related financial assistance later this month.
But the province is asking farmers to pay upfront for the supports they need, then submit their claims with receipts and photos as proof.
“What needs to happen is we need government support behind us and we need it now,” MacDonald said. “We don’t need it in 60 more days.”
In a letter to British Columbia Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, the Saskatoon-based National Farmers Union of Canada echoes the urgency for ranchers affected by the wildfires and floods to receive funding from the AgriRecovery program.
“Pastoralists who managed to survive summer droughts and fires saw their hay supplies washed away or destroyed by flooding,” President Katie Ward wrote.
“With the widespread drought in Western Canada, animal feed is becoming increasingly scarce, and already high hay prices are rising as availability decreases.”
Ward says it’s difficult for many farmers to prepay for infrastructure repairs and Alberta hay after all hay was lost to fires and floods in British Columbia
“I hope Minister Popham and Minister [Marie-Claude] At the federal level, Bibeau can propose a program that will take care of farmers at all economic levels, because there will be many people in the current situation who cannot afford the enormous costs of food and expedition, but they still have to feed their animals.”
MacDonald says she lost 300 tonnes of hay and was lucky to receive hay donated by farmers in northern British Columbia, but she hopes governments can act quickly to support farmers who are in urgent need.
“The government really needs to step in and make sure their farmers and herders get help, so they can keep producing,” she said.
LISTEN | Rhonda MacDonald is asking for immediate help from the provincial and federal governments:
Sunrise Kamloops7:08Merritt-area rancher still waiting for provincial help