SICAMOUS (June 20, 2019) – Farmers in the North Okanagan are facing significant crop destruction and financial losses, thanks to an invasion of Western yellowstriped armyworms and the inaction of John Horgan and the NDP.
The caterpillars arrived in Spallumcheen last year, brought in by a California storm. The pests usually target alfalfa crops but once they have decimated those, they start attacking other plants.
“Constituents tell me they reported this to the Ministry of Agriculture a year ago, only to be told the pest would die off in the winter— but that didn’t happen,” says Greg Kyllo, MLA for Shuswap. “The armyworms are back even earlier this year, in higher numbers, and these farmers are frustrated by the non-answers they’ve received from the ministry.”
These constituents have now written letters directly to Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, requesting more help than they have been provided to date. Some are calling for a public meeting to share information and discuss potential remedies. While the ministry has yet to organize one, the Township of Spallumcheen has initiated one on June 26th.
“My constituents report the ministry did recommend a pesticide that may have a detrimental effect on bee populations— which will cause even more harm if used, given the importance of bees to food production. It’s worth noting this area is home to honey producers who could be adversely affected,” says Kyllo. “Our local farmers are in need of sound advice, and so far they haven’t been getting it.”
BC Liberal Agriculture Critic Ian Paton warns of the dangers of letting an invasive pest take hold.
“This problem may be isolated to part of the North Okanagan now— but if no action is taken, B.C. could have another economic disaster on its hands like we saw with the pine beetle,” says Paton. “We need to ensure this pest is removed in an environmentally-sustainable way, as quickly as possible. The longer this government stalls, the higher the economic impact to farmers.”