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Fraser Valley farms begin cleanup as B.C. flood water recedes

Thousands of dead animals still to be removed
Aerial view of flooded farmland at Abbotsford, Nov. 22, 2021. (B.C. government photo)

There are still more than 800 farms under evacuation order in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, and as the flood water recedes from the record rainfall starting in mid-November, the grim work of cleanup is beginning.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said there are 12,000 carcasses of hogs, 420 dairy cows and 626,000 chickens, turkeys and other poultry that must be removed and disposed of. Surviving animals are being moved to available farms from the Fraser Valley and the Nicola Valley near Merritt, and the ministry is arranging enough feed to get them through the winter, Popham said. There have also been 110 beehives identified as lost in flooding.

“The work by farmers and volunteers and companies to clean out barns and to remove those animals continues to be extremely heartbreaking, and I request that folks remain empathetic and caring in their comments as they continue to do this very difficult work,” Popham said at an emergency management briefing from Victoria Dec. 2.

Blueberry fields, which often have standing water in winter, were submerged in up to eight feet of water and many are still flooded. There are 700 acres of blueberry bushes in Sumas Prairie, and growers have advised Popham that it will be April before they see if the bushes emerge from winter dormancy and grow again.

The agriculture ministry has extended its registration deadline for the 2021 “Agristability” program to cover farms that were not enrolled by Dec. 1. The federal-provincial program offers crop insurance and agricultural income protection, and the deadline for 2021 claims has been extended to the end of 2022.

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