The flooding of 2021 in Abbotsford damaged one of the government’s important agricultural centres, at a time when it was most needed.
The Plant and Animal Health Centre suffered severe damage, as it is located in the Sumas Prairie. And while it’s back up and running for the most part, it’s at risk of future flooding.
So, the province has announced that they will be building a new centre somewhere in the Fraser Valley. They’ll be bringing forward a business plan by the end of this year, highlighting some possible locations.
The centre is important for B.C.’s agriculture, as it provides diagnostic services that support agricultural producers, food safety and the growth of a resilient food system in the province.
A press release from the ministry of agriculture said that the new facility will be designed to offer laboratory services to B.C.’s agricultural and veterinary sectors, including disease and virus diagnosis in wild and domestic birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians, as well as hundreds of plant pests and diseases.
More than 40 scientists work in the current facility, which handles more than 6,000 case submissions annually.
“We know how crucial it is for farmers to have access to prompt plant and animal health diagnosis locally,” said Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission MLA who is now also minister of agriculture and food. “A new Plant and Animal Health Centre is part of our government’s commitment to help our agriculture sector succeed through challenging times.”
The new centre will provide enhanced animal and plant health services to B.C. producers in a more secure setting, the province said.
“Healthy plants and animals are critical to B.C.’s agriculture sector and to the farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods depend on them,” said Stan Vander Waal, president of the BC Agriculture Council. “The investment made by the province demonstrates that agriculture is valued in British Columbia and working to ensure our communities’ food security.”
In addition to a new location, the plan at the end of 2023 will include opportunities for additional supporting locations with specialized services in other parts of the province. The new centre will work to involve partnerships with academic institutions and public health agencies, as well as building on the current operational model, which is regarded as Western Canada’s leading full-service veterinary laboratory.
“The loss of the lab during the 2021 flooding was devastating to the agricultural community. We are excited to hear that a new higher-capacity lab will be located in a safer area of the Fraser Valley,” said Katie Lowe, executive director of BC Egg. “The lab staff have worked tirelessly to support poultry farmers during the avian influenza outbreak and we thank them for their dedication. A new lab will only improve the already excellent work being done there.”