THE VOICE OF ONTARIO'S FRUIT, VEGETABLE
AND GREENHOUSE PRODUCERS FOROVER 150 YEARS

OFVGA response to new regulatory requirements to protect pollinators

Pollinator
Image provided by Pixabay, Creative Commons

Background

The Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (OFVGA) has submitted a response to the document released by the Province of Ontario entitled “POLLINATOR HEALTH: A PROPOSAL FOR ENHANCING POLLINATOR HEALTH AND REDUCING THE USE OF NEONICOTINOID PESTICIDES IN ONTARIO”.  We encourage the reviewers of this document to refer to that submission as well, as it goes into fine detail on the information and perspective that the OFVGA has on these regulations.

The current Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) proposal is focused only on changes for seed treatments and farmer requirements. We proposed that it be withdrawn and redrafted to fully  expand upon and provide detailed information on the intended goals for pollinator health. We further suggested that the final position paper be developed with input from all stakeholders, including agricultural experts based in Ontario.  Use of information from other jurisdictions that is not proven to be relevant to Ontario should not be an acceptable practice.   The agricultural reality in Ontario is substantially different from other jurisdictions globally.  Recommendations for use in Ontario must be based on the experience of Ontario experts. For instance, these insecticidal treatments in Ontario are aimed to protect against as many as eight distinct insect species. Nowhere in the government proposal is this fact mentioned, nor are alternatives offered or suggested to farmers.

The OFVGA thinks that the concept of making a new ‘class’ for NN treated seed may be a good idea for many reasons. If the pesticides that are being used in the seed treatment require that a grower obtain his/her pesticide certificate, or an operator license to buy and use, so too should the seed salesperson. The required training would promote safe handling, storage and disposal of such seed. The sale of treated seed should continue as is with an additional proviso that farmer-dealer re-sellers of treated seed have at least a grower certificate or a vendor certificate. The original seed treaters and sellers should have a vendor license in addition to their applicator licenses. The safe storage of treated seed must ensure its dry storage integrity in a safe manner, but should not be in a ‘regular’ pesticide storage due to possibility of herbicide vapour contamination.

The previously stated ‘aspirational goal’ of 80% reduction of acres appears to have disappeared and in truth the proposed use levels of insecticidal seed treatments does not reflect the reality in the field. Current OMAFRA staff assessment suggests that a notional goal for the acres needing treatment is 50% for corn, and 40% for soybeans. This is a reflection on the range of pests, the range of soil types, tillage practice, seeding times and weather conditions.   We have concerns that while there is a focus on some pests, there is a lack of inclusion of many other pests which are economically important to agricultural producers.

The challenge remains to determine, in a time-effective way, which fields warrant treatment or do not require treatment. The research to formalize this approach is underway but needs a huge push to be accomplished in a timely fashion. There are some current situations where treatment may be avoided. These need to be promoted.

Specific Comments

Under Interpretation
The definition of corn should be modified to state “grain corn”.

There is no date associated with the availability of the “Pest Assessment Guidelines” document.

Grubs and wireworms are the only two pests identified as being impacted by neonicotinoids.  This list must be expanded to reflect what pests are on the labels of the various products being used.

The determination of the threshold that must be met must consider the economic threshold.  Who is to determine this economic threshold? Under what series of conditions will this vary? Who will do this determination as it takes a well-trained IPM practitioner many years to achieve this knowledge level?

Reference to the “Pesticide Production Information Database” infers that the national regulation of these products is paramount.  These regulations do not support this. In fact, the PMRA of Health Canada has NOT endorsed this document.

“Treated seed sales representative” means a person who represents a person who is required to hold a vendor’s license…  Is it the company who the person is representing, not the individual?

1.1  Under General, there is reference to “the Committee, the Director, the Minister or a provincial officer”.  Does this mean “the Ontario Pesticides Advisory Committee” and does this mean that all of these changes are to be reported to the Committee prior to legislation being in place?

3.3  Reference to “On a website of the Government of Ontario” is very unspecific.  This should be clarified (for example, it could be located on a totally unrelated area).

4.5 Table  Class 12 pesticides should be included

6.1 and 7.1  “may reclassify a pesticide, other than a pesticide classified under section 8.1” infers that there will be no chance for re-evaluation of the use of this class of pesticides.  If scientific scrutiny confirms the use of this class, then the Government of Ontario must be open to reclassification of pesticides”.  The same goes for declassifying pesticides.

8.1 (2)  These sections should apply and should not be removed from Class 12 pesticides

8.2   Pest Assessment Report.  The identification of which pests is not included.  What pests are to be included in this report?  How many assessments? If a property is leased, who is the work being done for?  If a farm unit consists of multiple properties (eg divided by a road), what assessments must be done?

8.2 (2)   In the “Interpretation”, “professional engineer” is defined.  Reference is made to a “professional pest advisor”.  “professional engineer” comes with the designation P.Eng (which includes requirements for annual recertification, continuing education, discipline and misconduct regulations etc.  Is there a similar designation for a “professional pest advisor”?  To our knowledge there is no such designation, nor are there requirements associated with being a “professional pest advisor”.  Those individuals who are “Certified Crop Advisors”, “Professional Agrologists” or “Certified Professional Agronomists” do not have the designation of “professional pest advisor”.

8.2 (2) 4.  A person who, in the opinion of the Director, has the qualifications that are equivalent to those of a person mentioned in paragraph 1, 2 or 3.  What are the qualifications of “The Director” to make this assessment?  Is it a necessity that the Director be familiar with all of the requirements to be certified as a CCA, PAg or CPAg? 

9.1 (2).  This is a redundant clause as it is a federal requirement.

29 (2) 1 “i” What form of submission to the Minister is required?  The previous version stated “in writing”.  As it sits, a person could provide a verbal description and be in compliance.

34 (4) 5.  How was the fee for the Vendors License of the Treated Seed Class determined?  Why is this not similar to the Vendors License of the Limited Class (since this is clearly a limited class – Section 34 (4) 4 - $110.

40 (3) 1.  Requires the submission of an email address.  Is this in contravention to the privacy laws, since a request can be made to the government for this information?

40.(3) 2.1  Requires the submission of an email address.  Is this in contravention to the privacy laws, since a request can be made to the government for this information?

45 (1) a ii  Details of the course required to presented prior to an effective commentary on the content.  The people who must take the course is uncertain.    It applies to those involved with the seeding and should absolutely require significant in-field training.  To do this online only is unworkable, and cannot achieve a properly trained practitioner.. 

45 (1) a iii   The body providing the course has not been identified.  What is the accreditation of this organization and what is the capacity of the organization to issue certificates, and how was the course content determined?  Were Ontario entomologists and agriculturalists consulted in this process? If not, why not as they are the ones most intimately familiar with the crop, the pests and the production dynamic.

45 (3) (a) To whom must the person who carries the documentation provide this to?  Similar question to 45 (1) a iii.

45 (3) (b)  what is meant by “each extermination”?  Provide clarity.

45 (5) (c)  How was the number of persons to be supervised determined (7).  Do all supervisors have the same capacity to supervise this number of people?

45 (6)  No such course currently exists, so it is questioned how input can be made on its content.  No detail was provided as to who is developing such a course. How can meaningful input be provided? Broad topics (such as 45 (6) 1) do not serve a great purpose here.

45 (6) 3. i.  The use of IPM is suggested (and supported).  Many pests of corn and soybean have been identified above.  Will these be part of the course?  If so, will these also be included as indicator species?

45 (6) 3 iii.  The use of pest management options other than pesticides needs to be elucidated.  Under the International Union for the Conservancy of Nature, the suggestions have been to scout, use crop rotation, heavy tillage, biopesticides, and organophosphates and pyrethroids.  While points 1 and 2 of these recommendations are useful, heavy tillage is not recommended for Ontario (due to shallow soils and soil conservation requirements), biopesticides are generally not economical nor are they available for the pests involved here. Pyrethroids are prone to resistance development and organophosphates have a toxicological profile that led to the development of neonicotinoids.  What are the other pest management options the MOECC is recommending?  This is a key question.

45 (6) 6.  What are the Best Management Practices for the use of Class 12 pesticides that the MOECC is recommending?

87 (2) b.  Locations do not have email addresses.  Does this contradict Privacy legislation?

98 (3) 1 A and B.  What is the ruling if the “professional advisor” indicates a need for neonicotinoids to treat 100% of the property in the pest assessment report?  Current legislation states for 2016 for this to be 50% for corn and soybean, and 80% in 2017.  Who is the body delivering the course and what is the content?  What is the relevance to an individual farmer? 

Section 98 is quite vague. There needs to be a written protocol on how this will work for a farmer needing 25%, 50% 75% and 100% treated seed in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Clarity is paramount to show how this is intended to roll out.

100.1 (2) a.  Is there a description of the required training for a treated seed sales representative?  Who is responsible for the payment of this training?

101.1 (3) B and C. What is the ruling if the “professional advisor” indicates a need for neonicotinoids to treat 100% of the property in the pest assessment report?  Who assumes the liability? Who pays for the liability insurance need of every advisor?

101.1 (5) 3 and 4.  Why is it necessary and a requirement that every agent must carry untreated seed when there are other companies in Ontario who do so?  In a free market economy, purchasers of seed are free to purchase from whomever they choose.  This is the case in Ontario.

102 (5) A and B.  What are the legal consequences if the proper documentation is not provided?

102.1 (6) 1-9.  How will this proprietary sales information be protected under the Freedom of Information Act?  Sales of untreated seeds are not germane to this legislation and are not pesticides, therefore this data should not be submitted.  This is also the case for acreage numbers.
 

General Questions

No penalties are prescribed for those not in compliance.  How will these be enforced, what are the penalties for non-compliance and what is the appeal process?

Future actions are so much a requirement of these regulations.  These regulations have been written assuming all will fall into place, yet there are so many determinants for the regulations which are not yet in place.

What are the specific roles of the MOECC, its inspectors and its staff? These need to be laid out just as are the requirements of farmers.

What is the role of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in these regulations?

It is questioned that there are there enough resources to do what is being suggested.  Has an economic assessment of the implementation of these regulations been conducted, looking specifically at the costs to industry, farmers, and especially the costs to government (as per the Government of Ontario mandatory policy on implementing new policies).

There are very few crop consultants who are still qualified to take a role in this regulation because most are tied to companies etc.  Most are disqualified due to this reason.  How will the Government of Ontario ensure that there enough fully liability-insured crop consultants in the market place to handle up to 5 million acres of grain corn and soybeans.

Who will be the provider of liability insurance to these crop consultants, what will the costs associate with this added insurance be and would they even do this since the ability to get liability insurance would be very difficult?  Have these professionals been contacted and what is their response? (Even Lloyds of London may not accept this coverage. Will the government of Ontario underwrite this coverage?).

Few insects are mentioned in the regulations, however there are many insects of interest being targeted by neonicotinoids.  For example, there are 4 species of cutworm, 3 species of chafers, Japanese beetle, seed corn maggot, wireworm, and June beetles. These were all be controlled by one insecticide (as opposed to historically 2 – Lindane and diazinon).  Which insects will be covered under these regulations, and what is the plan to cover those that are not?

There is a good program of no till implement to save our topsoil.  This is, however, conducive to insect development. Ontario could go back to heavy tillage, but there will be consequences and this could also lead to weed escapes, negatively impacting production. Farmers cannot ignore biology and biological imperatives of insects, so the use of neonicotinoids is one tool to combat those challenges. 

Crop Insurance will not cover this as the margin will go down every year.

Who is to assume the liability for a pest report which indicates negative presence but in season losses can be attributed to the presence of a pest?

These regulations were to be in place for Class 12 pesticides, which are intended to be Neonicotinoid based pesticides. It appears that these regulations are written to include any seed based pesticide.  If so, this is not in the spirit of the original pollinator health document.
 

Recommendations

It is still recommended all parties that are concerned with pollinator health go back to a new beginning. All must acknowledge the efforts of any and all partners to resolve the issue.
Future recommendations for government policy must include a complete, unbiased consideration of all the information that is available.
While it is acknowledged that these regulations are about the addition of Class 12 pesticides, all of the factors that have been identified with pollinator health need to be addressed and should be addressed individually.  The emphasis on neonicotinoids and the respective impact on pollinator health is overstated, relative to other impacts on bee health, so these two initiatives should be split into two policy statements.  Activities to improve bee forage are crucial to long-term beekeeping success in Ontario, regardless of any other factors. We must learn from those beekeepers that have thrived throughout the current situation.

A strategy to improve bee forage using the above approaches is recommended. Additional resources are needed to develop new IPM systems for grain farmers.

OMAFRA needs additional resourcing for the research, development and field implementation of corn and soybean insect IPM. This will include a research component, a field delivery component, and an education component. It may need a 10 year commitment to realize the full implementation of the program. The training alone will need at least 3 years under current conditions. Training of additional staff to deliver the new IPM program will also take time.

The regulations as presented have many technical challenges which must be addressed, prior to receiving excellent feedback from other stakeholders.
MOECC should consider the results of research and development used under Ontario conditions first, and not rely on practices and information from other jurisdictions that, while at first blush, would appear relevant to Ontario production, may in fact not be so.  Experts in this area are in Ontario.
Corn and soybean growers need to embrace the IPM approach to deciding if seed treatment is warranted. They need to be willing to further adapt existing seeding equipment and to demand a better equipment standard in future new purchases and must be given credit for these activities. The goal of zero unintended release from seed treatments should be embraced. They need to work even more closely with the seed trade to make the transition as seamless as possible.

Annual evaluations and a five and a ten-year review of these regulations should be mandated from the outset.

Because there is conflicting information on the impacts of the proposed policy and because it is based upon the “Precautionary Principle”, the MOECC and OMAFRA must implement a plan to evaluate the impact on bee health that is independently verified and use an unbiased, third-party based protocol.