By Tom Collins
WATERLOO If the provincial government is successful in reducing neonicotinoid seed sales by 80 per cent by 2017, some farmers are ready to buy their seed in the United States.
“Ive got some growers that feel if it werent for neonics, they would be in dire financial difficulty,” said district 7 (Waterloo and Oxford) director Kevin Armstrong. “I have growers that are going to cross the border and purchase their seed in the States. Its an unfortunate situation.”
Ontario can restrict neonic sales but not what crosses the border.
Neonics were the hot topic at all district annual meetings last month and farmers overwhelmingly pounded the province for overreacting.
A Conference Board of Canada report last year said that restricting neonic use would reduce farmer revenues by more than $630 million per year in Ontario. For 26,926 GFO members, that equates to an average loss of about $23,400 per farmer. Average cash receipts for Ontario corn and soybean growers in 2013 was $113,280, Statistics Canada reported.
Almost all corn and soybean seed used in Ontario is treated with the neonic-insecticide treatment. The province says neonics are killing bees.
District 3 (Lambton) sent a submission to the province supporting the continued use of neoincs. “It seems to me like the government has rushed into this decision,” said district 3 director Dave Park. “When you rush into a decision, you can miss things. Theres so many questions that really need to be answered.
“How do you plan on doing that? If you do that, whats the effect its going to have on (seed) dealers? What does it mean for our members? They dont even know for sure if what they are doing is right. They come out and say were taking a preventative approach instead of letting science tell the story.”
District 4 (Middlesex) director Joe Thomson said seed companies are working on new seed treatments because of public pressure that would replace neonics across North America. However, he is worried about the precedent the neonic situation will set in Ontario.
“Some farmers dont realize how big of an issue it is,” he said. “This could just be the tip of the spear. If the provincial government wants to start looking at other things in agriculture, like antibiotic use in livestock production, or tightening up pesticide controls, or what we spray for weed control, Im a little worried about that. This could lead to more restrictions.”
District 2 (Kent) director Mark Huston said farmers are disappointed in the way the neonic issue came forward and said it all comes down to trust.
“There isnt a lot of faith offered by farmers towards the government,” he said. “We have to work on building that back. Its a lot tougher to build it back than it is to lose it.”