Province expands extreme weather funding program to include beekeepers, pot growers

Beekeepers tend to hives in 2020. Beekeepers, aquaculturalists and federally licensed marijuana and hemp growers can now apply for special funding to help protect against extreme heat. (Chelsea Thomsen/Special to Black Press)

There’s a new, expanded round of provincial funding for farmers and ranchers to help strengthen their resilience to extreme weather.

The Extreme Weather Preparedness for Agriculture program was launched as a pilot last summer and aims to build a more resilient and sustainable agriculture and food sector by helping prepare for future climate events, such as wildfires, flooding and heatwaves. This year, the province is including B.C.-licensed apiculture (beekeeping) and aquaculture producers, as well as federally licensed cannabis and hemp producers.

The program will potentially fund up to $2.5 million in projects, up from $1.4 million last year. The application process has started and will end June 14.

Last year, there were projects in the poultry, dairy, beef, tree fruit and berry sectors. One of the primary projects funded was improving barn cooling systems to help keep poultry and cattle safe in the event of extreme heat.

“Climate change and extreme weather pose an array of challenges for people throughout British Columbia, including our farmers, ranchers and food producers,” said Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food. “It is important that we support them with programs like this so they can be more resilient to the impacts of climate change and better protect their livelihoods, while ensuring we have a stable, sustainable food supply.”

Farmers across the province have dealt with compounding environmental disasters in the last few years, some of which have caused issues with the food chain. It’s also been hard on livestock, said Mark Siemens, farmer and president, BC Egg Producers Association.

“The welfare of our animals is the No. 1 concern for B.C. farmers when we’re faced with extreme weather,” Siemens said. “This program supports important projects like improved cooling systems and shade trees that provide a safer space for animals. The poultry sector was hit hard during the 2021 heat dome and flood as our farms had never been tested through these circumstances, and this funding will ensure we’re able to better prepare for and mitigate future extreme weather events.”

The program is part of B.C.’s Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy, the province’s plan to help people, communities and businesses work together to be better prepared for the impacts of climate change. Eligible applicants can access up to $35,000 in cost-shared funding per project.

New project categories added to the program for this intake include exterior sprinkler protection for critical infrastructure; flood-resilient apiary (bees) overwintering and equipment storage; improved barn and indoor aquaculture cooling systems; and innovative projects (farmers can propose new concepts for consideration).

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