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Ontario farmers vexed by new neonicotinoid regulations

07/02/2015 09:50 EDT | Updated 07/02/2016 05:59 EDT
An Ontario farmer says there are problems with the province's new pesticide regulations that restrict the use of neonicotinoids, which are blamed for killing bees.

Peggy Brekveld, a Thunder Bay farmer who is also vice president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, says farmers care about bee health because bees help their crops grow.

But some of the regulations are unworkable, she noted. 

"We will be required to have a certified crop advisor inspect our fields ... and, according to the regulations as they're written right now, there's only about 100 CCAs that are qualified to do these inspections."

Farmers in northwestern Ontario might have trouble finding an inspector, she said.

The CCA's job is to help verify that a farmer indeed needs neonicotinoid pesticides to grow his or her crops successfully. Brekveld, a dairy farmer who also grows corn, wheat and barley, said neonicotinoids are the best way to protect crops from pests.

Timing issue

The Grain Farmers of Ontario have gone to court seeking to delay the implementation of the regulations. There are more than 28,000 grain farmers in Ontario

Chair Mark Brock told CBC News the regulations require farmers to prove they need neonicontinoids if they want to treat more than 50 per cent of corn and soy bean crops.

But farmers would have needed to do that pest assessment back in April, Brock said, based on the life cycle of the pests.

He said farmers would have a difficult time proving the need for neonicotinoids, based on this year's crops, because they've already used the products to control the pests.

The best time to prove that need would be April 2016, he added.

The Grain Farmers are hoping to appear in court this month seeking an immediate stay on the implementation on the regulations. Brock said he anticipates a full hearing of their case in the fall.

Training concerns

The new rules also require farmers to go through training before using the seeds.

"The number of people they're trying to push through these courses ...we're saying to them slow down," said Brekveld, who added that she would not comment specifically on the Grain Farmers' legal action.

"This can be done, but we need to think about how we're going to actually move these regulations forward."

She still has questions about the training, such as whether farmers can take it in town or online, she said.

Neonicotinoids are nicotine-based insecticides that contain neurotoxins that make all parts of the plant harmful to insects feeding on them, don't break down quickly in soil, and can be transported by run-off from fields to rivers and lakes.

The province's plans, first announced last November, were initially met with skepticism by the Grain Farmers of Ontario, which immediately issued a release claiming that the province's grain farmers are "under attack" and that an 80 per cent restriction amounts to a "total ban on the product."

Neonicotinoid pesticides were already banned by the European Union. An outright ban in Canada would have to be issued by Health Canada. 

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