Perth-Wellington MP John Nater, left, and MPP Randy Pettapiece attended the Grain Farmers of Ontario-District 9 (Perth) Annual Meeting Wednesday, Jan. 13 at the Mitchell Golf and Country Club.
By Dan Rankin
Braving snowy weather that made for a third consecutive snow day at area schools this week, members of Grain Farmers of Ontario–District 9 (Perth) met at the Mitchell Golf and Country Club for their Annual Meeting Jan. 13.
In attendance at the meeting were Perth–Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece and MP John Nater. Both commented on the ongoing issue of neonicintoid-coated seeds, on which Ontario imposed strict regulations last year. The province seeks to reduce the use of “neo-nics” after the pesticide was widely deemed responsible for making pollinators such as bees and other insects more susceptible to illness.
District 9 director and Grain Farmers of Ontario chair Mark Brock spoke at the group’s Annual Meeting Wednesday, Jan. 13 at the Mitchell Golf and Country Club.
“[Haldimand-Norfolk MPP] Toby Barrett has called on the government to re-investigate and open up talks on the neo-nic issue,” MPP Pettapiece told the crowd of grain farmers. “There’s a study that came out of Ottawa that says the neo-nics don’t have the effect on pollinators that the Ontario government says it does. He’s asked them to open that up again so hopefully we can get this issue put to bed.”
MP Nater said the issue also had a federal component and that he looks forward to those conversations, going forward.
GFO Vice Chair Mark Huston said the issue of pollinator health continues to be one of the main topics discussed by their board, and one of the main reasons for their time spent in Ottawa and Queen’s Park.
Last year, with grain farmers following new best management practices, “bee deaths were down again, 80 percent lower than 2012,” he said. But the new laws still went into power in July. “We had to take an option we didn’t want to take, which was legal action.”
GFO’s bid to block a law limiting the use of neo-nics was rejected in October last year. “That was unfavourable, so we’re currently in an appeal process,” Huston said. “We’ll have another day in court. That’ll be in March.”
MPP Pettapiece also discussed an “alarming” change relevant to farmers that new provincial environment commissioner Dianne Saxe has stated an interest in making. “One thing she wants to do is get rid of coloured diesel and put the tax back on,” he said. “She says that agriculture and some other industries aren’t playing at a level playing field. I would ask that you keep close attention as to what she brings forward.”
According to her, dyed diesel is a $190 million subsidy to agriculture and certain other industries, he said. “The premier is always looking for what she calls ‘revenue tools’,” he said. “All of you here are her revenue tools. This is something we’re going to keep a close watch on.”
Huston also discussed phosphine gas fumigant, another pesticide used by the industry, which has recently been re-evaluated by the Pesticide Risk Management Agency.
“That’s what you use if you have bugs in your bin,” Huston said. “It’s a fumigant used to treat elevators and bins. Right now, it’s about the only product that there is to do that.”
New rules increased setback levels, and lowered exposure tolerance levels from 0.3 parts per million to 0.1, he said. “The difficulty for the industry and us, from a grain farmer’s perspective, is that decisions weren’t made with much of a consultation,” he said. “They were published and then there was the question of whether or not they’ll actually work. Buffer distances are 50 metres from where the fumigant’s being applied to. If you think of a lot of elevators, such as Hensall, that would mean you pretty much couldn’t live in Hensall if the product is being used. It poses some risk to us.”
Huston said industry associations have been working with PRMA and the issue is ongoing.
Huston also discussed Manipulator, a new product used to regulate growth in wheat. Manipulator can be used to shorten straw and create a larger head on wheat, he said. However, while Manipulator has been approved in the EU and in Canada, it has not been approved in the USA. American regulations currently do not permit even the smallest amount of minimum residue level (MRL) of Manipulator.
“We have a lot of trade back and forth across the border,” he said. “This poses a very large risk to that trade.”
GFO officials are “encouraging our growers to have a really hard thought and probably not use this product this year,” Huston said. “As movement happens in the US and we hopefully get approvals in the US, that may change. But at the moment, those aren’t there.”
District 9 director and GFO Chair Mark Brock also touched on the issue of Manipulator. “We probably have one of the bigger wheat crops we’ve had in a lot of years and we need to export a lot of it out of Ontario,” Brock said. “We don’t want that border to close at all. We don’t want the US, who has a zero limit for it, to be able to use it as a nontariff trade barrier.”
Another topic Brock and GFO will be focusing on in 2016 is the involvement and participation of female members within the organization. “There are a lot of daughters coming home and wives who are very significantly involved in operations,” he said. “We want to include them in the conversation and bring their thoughts and ideas forward. They have a lot of great input they can bring to the organization.”
An upcoming major event for GFO is the March Classic conference, which will be held Tuesday, March 22 at the London Convention Centre. Keynote speakers will include Manjit Minhas, the newest “dragon” on CBC’s Dragons Den and former Deputy Prime Minister and Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
Registration is now open at GFO.ca/MarchClassic. Those who register by Jan. 31 will have a chance to win one of two “Good in Every Grain” jackets.