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Flooded farmers desperate for supplies

Farm animals in Bella Coola are at risk of starving to death after recent floods washed away or soaked tonnes of stored winter feed and hay, says Dayna Chapman of the Bella Coola Valley Sustainable Agricultural Society.

Chapman issued an appeal on behalf of the town's farmers, asking for financial support.

"At this point, our community has lost over 270 tonnes of winter feed, along with livestock, fencing, equipment, tools, heritage seeds, heritage fruit trees, corrals and paddocks, barns and shelters, market gardens, pasture, and actual acreage washed down the river," she wrote in a letter distributed to food security listserves and non-profits. "Our community's efforts to support local farmers and increase the resiliency of our agricultural sector, as well as increase our community's ability to feed itself, are in jeopardy."

Chapman said so far she's had responses from an agricultural society in Grand Forks, Stellar Seeds, and the Horse Council of B.C., but "the Ministry of Agriculture has basically said they can't do anything. . . they said they could help pay for disposal of carcasses of any that died in the flood."

Chapman said the town lost about 15 cattle, a flock of sheep and "lots of backyard chickens" along with infrastructure.

But because all the farmers in the valley work off the farm in order to make ends meet, they are ineligible for Provincial Emergency Assistance being offered to residents in the flood zone, said Chapman. According to provincial Disaster Financial Relief guidelines, farm owners must demonstrate the farm is their primary source of income in order to qualify.

"People in our region have always had diversified incomes, and have pieced together a livelihood that allows them to live here," Chapman wrote in the letter. "On farm income is an essential piece, and an important economic generator for our region."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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