Last week’s big rainfalls meant renewed flooding concerns both for smaller local roads and the Highways in the Clinton to Cache Creek area.
Flooding is not a new issue for the area at large but it’s certainly been a prominent one since the 2017 wildfires. 100 Mile House saw a whopping 33.9 mm of rain for Canada Day, crushing the previous record of 16.5 mm set in 1999, according to Environment Canada.
This follows evacuation alerts and orders earlier in the year. For some, the rain might be just a nuisance for others it has the potential to endanger their home.
Perhaps less in front of mind for most is that it has the potential to become a major concern for ranchers as well. A wet 2019 meant some ranchers were forced to make haylage and others had to buy hay.
For comparison, in 2017, haying season was in full swing at this point. Currently, very few, if any, are haying. Many fields, especially adjacent to rivers and lakes are still flooded or at least far too wet to drive a tractor on, let alone hay.
That’s bad news in an industry that’s already sharply declined in the South Cariboo with the number of cattle, farms and farm operators having sharply declined between 2011 and 2016, according to Statistics Canada.
That’s in part because of the relatively high average age of operators in the South Cariboo.
Even beyond the South Cariboo, however, a 2018 white paper even found that “approximately 50 per cent of the ALR is currently not used for farming.”
With increasing climate volatility, issues including too much or too little rain, are likely to keep increasing, making farming or ranching less appealing.
If local food production is a priority, there needs to be a better overall vision, supports and especially consistency from the provincial government. Consistency has been lacking on the agricultural front at least in part because of changes in government but not just because of that with current Agriculture Ministers Lana Popham’s flipflop on gravel being a relatively simple example.
Furthermore, time is of the essence perhaps even more so in the South Cariboo than in the rest of B.C. More ranchers are likely to retire in the years to come and the longer land sits dormant, the more work it will take to return it to working order, whether it’s ditches closing up or fences going down.
If the flooding remains a concern it’s not hard to imagine another press release later in the year announcing “support for feed on the way” as Popham did in 2019 but, in an industry where your home and livelihood are connected, a longer-term consistent strategy that would stand up to a change of heart, a change of government and a change in climate would probably be welcome. Unfortunately that would require hard to come by collaboration.