As British Columbians continue to experience the impacts of record drought and wildfire, farmers and ranchers are receiving support so they can continue to produce food in a changing climate.
“Farmers, ranchers and producers are feeling the impacts of climate change,” said Lawrence MacAulay, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “Investments in programs such as the Regional Extension Program will help ensure that farmers across British Columbia have the tools they need to prepare for, and mitigate the effects of, climate change on their operations. The efforts taken today will support a strong and resilient food system for Canadians for years to come.”
The Regional Extension Program is supporting regional projects focusing on research, knowledge transfer and new technologies. Funded by the governments of Canada and British Columbia, the goal of the program is to ensure healthy soils and ecosystems in agricultural communities, while helping reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and prepare for, and mitigate the impacts of, drought, wildfire, flooding and extreme temperatures.
“Climate change is creating more challenges for our farmers, ranchers and food producers, and we’re seeing the impacts of these extreme weather events in our communities,” said Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food. “We’re proactively helping producers so they can better prepare for, adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change. This will help them build more resilient and sustainable practices so they can better protect their farms and livestock and ensure our food supply is stable now and in the future.”
The program funds activities such as, data sharing, on-farm demonstrations, workshops and webinars that highlight best practices and the latest research and technologies to support sustainable agriculture. There are 16 projects underway with more starting in the coming months.
Several projects focus on helping regions prepare for and adapt to drought. In drought-affected regions of B.C., workshops are being offered to give farmers information to be better prepared and implement new strategies and best management practices that help them adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Other projects include workshops and field days on “silvopasture” for farmers and ranchers so they can learn about and apply new and best management practices that improve water quality and land-use planning.
A key feature of this program is the use of local knowledge whereby ministry staff work directly with farmers to identify and develop projects that strengthen both climate resilience and food security. Regional engagement sessions will be in November. Interested farmers can call AgriServiceBC at 1 888 221-7141 to find out about activities in their region.
The $1.5 million in program funding is from the Province’s CleanBC initiative and the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Sustainable CAP). Sustainable CAP is a five-year (2023-28) $3.5-billion investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen competitiveness, innovation and resilience of the agriculture, agri‐food and agri‐based products sector. Sustainable CAP includes $1 billion in federal programs and activities and a $2.5-billion commitment cost-shared 60% federally and 40% provincially/territorially for programs that are designed and delivered by provinces and territories.
Kevin Boon, general manager, BC Cattlemen’s Association –
“Since 2017 we have worked together with the Ministry of Agriculture, BC Wildfire Service, and the Ministry of Forests to use our livestock to graze fine fuels in interface areas so we can reduce the risk of fire impacting significant infrastructure. Over this time, significant data has been collected and we are looking forward to using the knowledge we have gained from these pilots. Developing a set of best management practices gives us an important tool to help manage our livestock and reduce the risk of wildfires, which is a win for everyone.”
Ruth King, program manager, Sustainable Winegrowing BC –
“Supporting sustainable farming practices such as cover-crop management is important for B.C.’s grape growers and, in turn, B.C.’s wine sector. I was pleased to be able to present observations from different wine-growth stages during field-day events for growers in the Okanagan, which will help them prepare for climate impacts in the next growing season and beyond.”
Leisa Yee, administrator, Delta Farmers’ Institute –
“This program has allowed farmers to better manage their irrigation practices and overall operational system efficiencies. The comprehensive monitoring network will continue to improve our understanding of the timing of river flows and water quality as we adapt to changes in weather patterns. The real-time information not only helps farmers take direct action but provides valuable data on the fluctuations of the environment.”
Regional Extension Program:https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/programs/regional-extension-program
Climate Change Adaptation resources: https://www.bcclimatechangeadaptation.ca/library/
Climate Change Adaptation Program 2018–2023 Program Highlights report: https://www.bcclimatechangeadaptation.ca/library/ccap-activities-from-2018-2023/
Sustainable Canadian Agriculture Partnership Program: https://agriculture.canada.ca/en/department/initiatives/sustainable-canadian-agricultural-partnership
A backgrounder follows.