By Brandy Harrison
BLENHEIM — The pest management course required under new regulations around neonicotinoid-treated seeds covered little new ground for John Nooyen.
“I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. I basically took it because I had to,” says the Blenheim crop farmer, who intends to use neonics on more than the 50 per cent maximum acres allowed without additional paperwork next year. “I have no choice. They trapped for pests and I’m full of them. We can’t get away without them.”
If anything, the free, half-day course on integrated pest management (IPM) may have emphasized the finer points of the legislation, such as the requirement to make separate requests to use neonics for each 100-acre section of a field, says Nooyen. As of Aug. 31, 2016, farmers must be IPM certified to complete pest assessments and buy neonic-treated seed. Farmers need proof of a pest problem to use any neonics in 2017.
Farmers at his session were a bit worked up, which put the instructor in a spot, says Nooyen.
“It’s government propaganda. It’s basically a bunch of farmers getting together to argue and complain because they’re upset about the whole thing,” he says.
Of the 50 Western Ontario farmers that Farmers Forum contacted, only five had taken the course by Dec. 1. Most were waiting until the January lull to sign up.
Reaction was mixed, but some farmers leaving one of the first sessions in Eastern Ontario felt the same as Nooyen.
“It’s silly stuff that government is putting us through. This is only good for a year and after that we have to hire somebody, so it’s almost pointless,” says Cornwall crop and beef farmer Jamie Clark.
Other farmers were simply glad to check it off their to-do lists, but at least two walked away with a new appreciation for the role of bees.
Thamesville crop farmer Harry Lawson agrees the material on bees was interesting and concedes the course may be helpful for farmers who aren’t all-too-familiar with wireworms and grubs.
“Farming on sand, we know all about them. It didn’t tell me a lot I didn’t already know,” he says, adding that he’ll use the 50 per cent maximum in 2016 as well as trialing a new, more costly product.
With corn still left in the field, Lawson had places he’d rather be. “I don’t think anybody was very happy about it,” he says, crediting the instructor for getting on the phone mid-course to try to answer farmers’ questions.
Except for a glimpse into the headaches that might be in store with more paperwork, it was also a rehash of old news for Ridgetown crop farmer Jason Boersma.
“The only thing I took away is it’s going to be more work for the farmer,” he says. “There’s no way around it. It’s law. We’re trying to make the best of it.”
It would have been far simpler to tie the course into the existing pesticide spray certification, Boersma says but he’s hopeful farmers will have a bigger say as the process evolves.
“Going forward, we hope it’s more of a partnership than a dictatorship where we’re working together rather than being constantly regulated and told what we have to do.”