Grain Farmers of Ontario today announced it has commenced legal proceedings against the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
“Late last week, Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) filed a request to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to provide an interpretation of the neonicotinoid treated seed regulations,” says Mark Brock, chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario, in a press release. “There are numerous areas of serious concern for farmers and the grain industry within the regulations and we believe it is critical that the regulations be thoroughly reviewed by the Court.”
The regulations are scheduled to come into force this week, on July 1, 2015. Grain Farmers of Ontario is asking the Superior Court to delay the implementation of the proposed regulations until May 1, 2016 or until “such time as the requirements of the Regulation can reasonably be met”. If the Court provides a stay against the regulations, farmers will be able to plant next year under the same rules followed this planting season, GFO says.
GFO says it hopes to have “relief from the regulations” this month, prior to seed orders for 2016.
“The decision to seek legal action against the Government of Ontario was not easy, and is unprecedented in the history of our organization, but it is necessary and the outcome of our multi-step legal strategy will be critical to the livelihood of grain farmers across the province,” says Barry Senft, CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario. “We are asking farmers and our agriculture partners for their patience in allowing the first steps of this request for a stay — to delay implementation of the regulations — to be heard, before the agricultural community responds to the regulations.”
Council for GFO, Eric Gillespie, took questions from media today and explained that the GFO is asking the courts to decide on whether this regulation as written is in fact workable by those who must adhere to it. For example, the regulations as written require that farmers submit pest assessments this fall if they are looking to purchase neonic-treated corn or soy fro more than 50% of their corn and soy acres. Because these assessments should have happened this spring (for 2016 purchases), GFO says there isn’t time to properly meet these rules by this fall.
Gillespie also says that GFO is seeking to deem the regs as a “legal absurdity.” This is a legal term where the court could rule that a law or legal instrument in place cannot actually work in practical terms, says Gillespie.
Gillespie noted that the notice filed today marks August as a court date, but that the group is working on a shorter timeline that will have the pre-hearing conducted in July. At such a time, GFO would ask that the regulations be put on hold until a full hearing is called. That could happen one to two months after the pre-hearing.