The Grain Farmers of Ontario have sought legal advice on behalf of its members and have words of caution for farmers: do not allow beekeepers on your land without a waiver of liability.
GFO has contacted members with guidance following concerns that surround possible liability issues with hosting beekeepers’ livestock on their land, the group says.
Concerns have varied from the following:
- Implication of the Class Action suit initiated by the Sierra Club and beekeepers;
- Report of farmers receiving registered letters threatening legal action;
- Question about whether or not to continue hosting beekeepers under new regulatory environment in Ontario that will mean increased use of foliar sprays.
GFO’s legal counsel states:
The new Pesticide Act regulations, mandated by the Ontario Government, prohibiting treated seeds will leave most grain farmers with no alternative but to return to traditional spraying for pest control/crop protection.
Grain farmers and knowledgeable beekeepers have expressed concern that such applications may be more harmful to bees than the seed based treatment that has been banned.
It is important that this risk be communicated to and understood and accepted by beekeepers before they are allowed to place their hives on a grain farmer’s property.
This will necessitate some form of written documentation whereby the beekeeper accepts all risks to the hive and bees placed on a grain farmer’s property and releases the grain farmer from any liability. As discussed, there is no guarantee that such a release would fully protect the grain farmer, nor would it impact on any regulatory breach.
GFO is advising that prior to allowing a beekeeper to house hives on your property, “it is recommended that farmer-members seek legal advice and have a signed contract with the beekeeper that protects you and your farm.”
Hugh Simpson, a commercial beekeeper and owner of Osprey Bluffs Honey, says he recognizes why GFO is advising members to have these conversations with beekeepers and are moving to a more formalized agreement between beekeepers and grain farmers, but he says it’s a sad ending to generations of working in tandem.
“For 100 years, farmers and beekeepers have been on the same property, with a relationship built on good will. These relationships have been mutually beneficial and positive,” says Simpson.
“It’s unfortunate that a vocal segment of the beekeeping community, with a limited understanding and history with agriculture, has driven a wedge between grain farmers, landowners and beekeepers,” he says, though he understands why grain farmers would be looking at ways and means to limit their liability within Ontario’s new regulatory framework.