Grain farmers want to delay new rules on pesticides linked to bee deaths: Beacon Herald

by Debora Van Brenk       read article

Grain farmers are making a last-ditch effort to block new regulations that would restrict their use of a pesticide seed coating that’s been linked to Ontario bee deaths.

The Grain Farmers of Ontario have asked for court time so they can argue to delay for at least 10 months the impending deadline when new neonicotinoid rules come into effect.

The rules are to come into effect July 1 as the province looks to reduce neonic use by 80 per cent by 2017.

Grain lobbyists are asking the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to apply the “absurdity test” to the regulations: in effect, to say the regulations in place are impractical and simply can’t work as intended.

Lawyer Eric Gillespie, representing the organization, said the notice was filed in Toronto and there are hopes of a court date in July.

Farmers insist the new rules won’t improve bee health, as intended, and instead will wreak havoc on their livelihoods.

They want a ruling to come before they have to order seed for the 2016 planting season so they can plant under the same terms as this year’s planting.

Grain Farmers of Ontario president Mark Brock, a Perth County farmer, said the regulations are “completely unworkable (and) pose a significant threat to our farmers.”

The action is unprecedented in the organization’s history, he said.

But it’s impossible for farmers to meet the provincial deadlines, which he said would require them to predetermine the extent of next year’s crop pests, before they decide in the next few months whether they need neonic-treated seed or not.

The organization’s chief executive, Barry Senft, said, “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.”

Neonicotinoids are used to coat corn and soybean seeds before planting, to prevent insects from creating damage in the crops.

Advocates say neonics are less harmful than other pesticides and safely improve crop yields.

But beekeepers and some environmental groups say the acute and long-term effects on bees has led to massive bee poisonings.

The Ontario Beekeepers Association called the grain farmers’ move a “frivolous” action.

“I can’t imagine that it would work,” said Julie White, a Long Point beekeeper and board member of the beekeepers association. She said the legal effort represents just one more attempt to slow down the process, which is only days away from being implemented.

“I think the government is committed to this action. It’s grounded in science. It’s grounded in public opinion,” she said.

The province has said its approach is one that gradually decreases the use of neonicotinoids while gradually improving pollinator protection.

Beekeepers board member Dennis Edell said the grain farmers’ association walked out of consultations with the province and has since “ratcheted up” demands — which now include court action; telling farmers they should put pollination contracts in writing with beekeepers; and by suggesting growers who can’t use seed treatments will instead use foliar spray on emerged plants.