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B.C. creates $5M animal-disease response program to make farmers, ranchers more resilient

‘Quicker, better’ response in B.C. coming for outbreaks like avian influenza, swine fever: ag minister

A new $5 million fund announced last Thursday in Chilliwack will help B.C. farmers protect their poultry and livestock from animal diseases like avian influenza, swine fever, and foot-and-mouth disease.

“I am pleased to officially announce that the B.C. government is investing $5 million in the B.C. poultry and livestock sector with the renewed focus of reducing the spread of animal disease and improving food security for British Columbians,” said Pam Alexis, minister of agriculture and food, on-site at Canadian Organic Feeds in Chilliwack.

Details like how and when the funding will flow weren’t available, but the new program is about fostering “resilience” in the ag sector, as part of a larger $200-million investment in food security initiatives recently announced.

Langley East MLA Megan Dykeman who is also a farmer, said animal diseases when they hit can have a “ripple effect” throughout the food supply chain.

“This investment will enable our farmers and ranchers to plan, prepare and prevent and mitigate for these diseases on their farms,” she said.

The funding will go to a mix of “emergency planning and training” for the livestock and poultry sector, and equipment in response to outbreaks, as well as research, and implementation of biosecurity and mitigation measures.

The ag sector will be able to respond “quicker and better” to disease outbreaks with this key support, said Alexis.

“Animal diseases, such as avian influenza, have a huge impact on farmers,” said Mark Siemens, president of the BC Egg producers association.

They’ve learned the virus is now a “year-round” concern causing farmers “mental strain and anguish,” which has become “very challenging,” Siemens said.

“Poultry farmers particularly appreciate the fact that this funding is available to a wide variety of applicants so we can take advantage of best practices from across the animal agriculture sector,” he said.

Industry associations will receive support for business planning, research, biosecurity and equipment purchases needed to respond to an animal disease outbreak.

The ministry’s Animal Health Centre, located in Abbotsford, currently handles more than 6,000 case submissions annually while diagnosing, monitoring and assisting in controlling and preventing diseases, such as avian influenza. The province has also announced plans to invest in a new Animal Health Centre that will ensure a more robust response to disease and enhanced testing in the future.

Chilliwack MLA Dan Coulter praised the provincial approach focused on planning and mitigation to get ahead of outbreaks, which have been devastating to Chilliwack-area farmers.

“The work is a significant step towards strengthening the resilience of our agricultural community, especially in the poultry and livestock sectors,” Coulter said.

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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