Help Wanted: An Ag Minister That Actually Works With and For Farmers

It would seem the more work and effort Ontario farmers put in to reducing neonicotinoid use and improving bee health, the less the provincial government and farmers’ own ministry wants to do with them.

The Grain Farmers of Ontario recently released its pollinator health blueprint. It’s a practical, well thought-out and realistic plan, with set dates for goals (ahem, not an “aspirational” one to be seen, I’ll add) and a combined commitment to decreased pesticide use in conjunction with a significant ask of preserving bee habitat, a point missing in OMAFRA’s proposed regulations. It also includes an all-important education component also sorely lacking in the province’s own plan.

What does the province think of the GFO’s blueprint? We may never know, as ag minister Jeff Leal first agreed to meet GFO in late March, with a discussion of the blueprint on the table, but shortly after clarified that the meeting was strictly a meet and greet with GFO’s new chair, Mark Brock. No pollinator talk allowed.

Related: Moving the yardsticks — the 1 million acre pollinator maneuver

I’m no political advisor, but the last time I checked, the ag minister was supposed to work with the agriculture industry. In his shoes, I’d be keen to tear apart the blueprint, pick out the best parts, add them in to “my” plan and sell it as a package that keeps voter-rich Toronto coddled and happy, but keeps the very real (and very needed) economic engine of Ontario agriculture chugging along. What’s more, maybe farmers would start to see me as an ally and not an adversary.

Because, ultimately, that should be the goal. Shouldn’t it?

If, as OMAFRA’s minister has pointed out, there will be a consultation period on the draft regulations set to roll out ahead of the slated March 26th meeting, why on earth would the minister not take this meeting as an opportunity to review the GFO’s pollinator health blueprint? Have we all been very naive in thinking there has ever been any actual value to the consultation process? Or, even worse, perhaps this is just a tit-for-tat move by OMAFRA’s minister after GFO pulled out of the government consultation process back in January. I wasn’t keen on that move then, but it makes this move by Leal even worse, if that’s the case.

Update: Ontario releases draft neonic regulations applicable for 2016 growing season

Which brings me to the title of this column. Farmers deserve better than an ag minister unwilling to discuss agriculture. Was GFO et al. wrong to walk out of the provincially-hosted meeting? Maybe. But it’s the ag minister’s job to guide and lead the agriculture industry through changing rules and regulation. Last time I checked, ag ministers didn’t actually do the farming, so at some point Leal’s going to need farmers to carry out the province’s “aspirational” goals.

And so I wonder — what if farmers said no? What if farmers said no to what the premier has proposed? The neonicotinoid reduction goals are “aspirational” after all — if there’s no fallout from not achieving an aspiration, perhaps farmers should just say no to doing their “job.”

It would seem their own minister has.

 

Lyndsey Smith

Lyndsey Smith is a field editor for RealAgriculture. A self-proclaimed agnerd, Lyndsey is passionate about all things farming but is especially thrilled by agronomy and livestock production.

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2 Comments

John

Lyndsey was right in that GFO should not have boycotted the consultation meetings, they should have took bus loads of farmers like they did to Queen’s Park to get RMP. Saying that both sides are really useless. A government that hates rural Ontario even before the last election and has a purely “environmental” agenda even if it means the downfall of Ontario just like the Green Energy Act was the downfall of manufacturing in Ontario.

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Ron Keffie

This has all played out already.

It is just that Farmers and Golfers think they are different than Low life Green Industry Members. Once they Restrict Seed Treated Neonics they will move onto the next product to ban, because the bees will keep dying.

If anyone wants to solve the problem with the Wynne government , show us what you got and take them to court, start a group litigation. Industry Members that use Health Canada Approved Pesticides should not be saying that the pesticides they use are safer or more essential than other Industry uses. If its registered for use it is SAFE.

Bet anyone that Aaron Todd of MOE is doing stream water tests on farmers rivers and creeks right now and after the neonic restriction he will announce a large .00001 parts per billion reduction in stream water samples because of the Wynne Government. Sierra Club and CAPE will be plastering it all over the subway and bus stations in Toronto.

Not 1 life or 1 frog has been saved from a cosmetic pesticide ban.

You can hear the frogs and crickets scream in agony when accidentally spraying them with the safer products like vinegar. Not to mention the burns received to the applicator with a sudden wind change.

Alternative Pesticides have been a dismal failure. Municipalities are even calling for exemptions.

Stand together with all of Industry or get ready to individually #fail.

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