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.
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.
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.