This week’s guest commentary comes from Don McCabe, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Ontario farmers are now facing new restrictions on the use of neonic-treated corn and soybean seed starting with 2016 planting. The Ontario government unveiled its rules for protecting pollinators through reducing acres treated with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds on June 9, 2015. The new regulations come into effect on July 1, 2015. Farmers will make seed choices this fall under these regulations.
The OFA has supported and consistently advocated for a broad pollinator health strategy. We submitted a formal response to the Pollinator Health discussion paper. We maintain our original position that any approach must be manageable on the farm, and that a comprehensive pollinator strategy is needed to address all pollinator health problems. The strategy must be inclusive to pests, disease and loss of habitat to name a few areas.
When the Ontario government made it clear they were moving ahead with changes to the Pesticides Act to restrict the use of neonicotinoid coated corn and soybean seed, OFA recognized the importance of working with the government to ensure their regulatory intentions would still be workable for Ontario farmers.
Now that the government’s new regulations are posted, OFA’s work continues. The OFA will be looking for better detail and flexibility to implementation of the regulations to give clarity and efficiency. Our concern is in minimizing the impact on farmers. We will be closely working with government during further discussions and consultations.
We made some progress to decrease the burden of the regulations faced by farmers and the seed industry prior to this release. Under the new legislation seed dealers on the farm are not regulated and transporting neonic-treated seed isn’t restricted. Ontario farmers still have access to neonic-treated corn and soybean seed where need is illustrated. Nonetheless, the regulations still present a burden coming within a very short implementation timeline.
The OFA has two important tasks. First we need to work closely with the government and industry to do what we can to make these regulations workable to begin addressing the aspirational target of the government. Secondly, we need to continue to push for a comprehensive pollinator strategy that works for all in the province to further pollinator health improvement with all considerations.
Our work isn’t done until this regulatory regime makes sense, and a pollinator strategy is completed. Achieving minimum competitiveness impact for all, while supporting new innovation to come to the province, have to be considerations. Bottom line, we need a holistic pollinator health strategy that engages everyone and works for all Ontario farmers.