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More help required: MLA

Develop disaster relief policy for farmers, Huntington says

In the wake of this week's announcement of disaster relief funding for B.C. farmers, Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington is urging government to go further.

"I urge the federal and provincial government to develop a disaster relief policy that provides local farmers real assurance that they won't be wiped out from the next extreme weather event and an unreliable crop insurance system," she said.

On Tuesday morning, federal and provincial agriculture ministers were at a Ladner farm to announce funding to help some farmers in the province recover from damage caused by extreme weather in recent months. Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Don McRae, B.C. Agriculture Minister, announced up to $5 million for two new AgriRecovery initiatives aimed at B.C. vegetable, cattle and bison producers.

The 2011 Canada-B.C. Excess Moisture Initiative includes $175 per acre for potato and vegetable growers in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island that were impacted by last fall's excessive rains.

Torrential rainfall throughout September left many farmers unable to harvest crops from saturated fields.

The funding can be used to help with the cost of restoring water-damaged cropland as well as the disposal of spoiled product in storage and the cleaning and disinfecting of storage facilities.

Huntington said the move is a good first step, but she feels more support should have been offered.

"We can't afford to be stingy," she said. "With so few farms left providing food, it's not just the livelihood of a few hard-working individuals at stake. We need to think ahead. Are we willing to risk our future food security?"

With more extreme weather events predicted for the future, Huntington said she is concerned that it is becoming more difficult for farmers sending food to market.

"Delta may be home to world-class farmland, yet even after a good season our farmers must compete with Mexico, the U.S. and China."

jkerr@delta-optimist.com