We have two guest commentaries this week. Both are on the topic of pollinators. Our first one is by Don McCabe, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
No one is more vested in the health of our ecology than farmers. Our livelihoods depend on healthy and abundant resources to plant and harvest crops, raise livestock and market our products. It’s becoming more apparent that our livelihoods as Ontario farmers are also impacted more than ever before by government regulations imposed on our farming practices. The Environmental Bill of Registry (EBR) had an announcement this past Tuesday on added regulation of use of neonicotinoid seed treatments. This is cause for concern.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) recognizes the importance of a healthy pollinator population. Agriculture depends on pollinators. The Ontario government recently acknowledged that the health of pollinators is challenged by many factors and has proposed to develop a plan to improve pollinator health. OFA fully supports this initiative and will work across industry and government to achieve a practical and workable pollinator health strategy.
One thing about pollinator health that we know is that it is a complex subject, affected by many different factors. We also know that the science around pollinator health is not definitive. There are many theories and there is evidence to suggest pollinator health is impacted by a combination of several factors.
However, while intending to carefully evaluate and address all of these impacts on bee health, the Ontario government has singled out one of the potential factors and proposes to establish regulations on it. The proposal is to dramatically restrict the use of modern seed treatment technology. This is an example of premature regulatory decision making. The plan to restrict the use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 80 per cent. This is labeled as an aspirational goal of this EBR posting by the government.
The OFA has always advocated for sound, evidence-based decisions when it comes to regulations that affect our farm businesses. We’re in business to work together with government, industry and our farmers. The OFA has worked for several years with the agriculture industry and provincial government on improving the regulatory environment under the Open for Business initiative, emphasizing the importance of working together for sound regulation.
Premier Wynne noted at the recent Premier’s Agriculture and Agri-Food Summit that the regulatory measures on neonicotinoids are precautionary in nature and not an agenda for more regulation. Nonetheless the regulatory cart is going well ahead of the evidence here. Restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids could easily be a restriction on our ability to meet growth targets by impeding new technologies to come forth to this province, and other company investment.
The Premier stated a need for an appropriate implementation response to the statements in the EBR posting, and a commitment to the Open for Business process. The science of agriculture deserves to be made clear at these proceedings. The history of innovation brought forth by farmers is clear and overwhelming. When a target is launched, farmers will achieve it through accessing the best science available. In other words, growing our sector requires consistent evidence based decision making. As farmers we must have input on decisions that impact our ability to continue to be the number one economic driver in Ontario.
OFA encourages members to speak up for an evidence based regulatory environment by reviewing the government’s discussion paper on this proposed regulation, and taking part in government consultations planned for December 2014 and January 2015. The OFA will be present at all consultation events.