FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 23, 2016
QUEEN’S PARK – Toby Barrett, Haldimand-Norfolk MPP and Critic to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, spoke in favour of a Private Member’s Bill to allow more certified pest advisors to provide advice on neonic-treated seed.
To comply with the new seed treatment rules proposed in regulation 63/09, farmers will have to have a professional pest advisor perform a pest assessment to determine if they can use neonic-treated seed. Despite holding certified crop advisor credentials, advisors tied to companies that sell neonic seeds are disqualified, leading to concerns there will be a shortage of individuals to conduct the required assessments. The legislation will limit all but 80 of the 538 certified crop advisors and professional agrologists who can conduct the assessments.
Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson brought forward Bill 4 to address the problem. Her bill will lift the restrictions on the pest advisors. The bill is supported by many agriculture groups.
Barrett said expert opinion and science-based research is critical in making the decision of which pesticides to use. During debate he also highlighted several comments made by agrologists last year that were misconstrued by the minister.
“With this reg, this government also, in my mind, seems to be questioning the professional integrity of these advisers, questioning their sound advice.” Barrett said during debate.
The bill passed second reading and was referred to committee.
“Let’s pick a committee that has an open agenda and let’s get this out for a fulsome discussion,” Barrett said in the Legislature.
For more information, contact MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446 or [email protected]
Video of Debate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzqHUEJe68c
September 22, 2016
Mr. Toby Barrett: I appreciate the opportunity to stress the importance of Bill 4, Supporting Agricultural Experts in their Field Act. As the title suggests, experts and science-based expertise are crucial in determining crop applications, certainly not emotion.
During question period, we have asked the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs about the various challenges of seed treatment rules proposed in regulation 63/09. With the new rules, as we know, farmers would need a professional pest adviser to perform a pest assessment to determine if they can use neonic-treated seed.
Here’s the crunch: Despite holding certified crop adviser credentials, advisers working with companies that sell neonic seeds are disqualified, leading, obviously, to a shortage of individuals to conduct these assessments that are required by the government.
With this reg, this government also, in my mind, seems to be questioning the professional integrity of these advisers, questioning their sound advice. These people have a reputation, as do the companies that provide these goods and services to farmers.
Speaker, this goes back to about a year ago. There’s been a lot of debate, as you would know. Several of these agrologists have indicated that the ag minister misconstrued their words. It was about this time last year, after question period, when I asked the minister to rationalize—
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): I need to remind the member of parliamentary language. You have to withdraw what you just said.
Mr. Toby Barrett: I withdraw.
I will quote, then, to clarify this a little better. This is Minister Leal’s answer to one of my questions, and again, he quotes: “‘It’s not too difficult.’ DeKalb agronomist Bob Thirlwall said the process isn’t as onerous as some growers think. ‘We’ve talked about it with a few growers: Is it any more work than the paperwork for having insecticide applied by airplane? We decided it’s actually less work.’”
Continuing to quote, the minister said: “Ken Currah, a Pride agronomist: ‘We are encouraging growers to have that discussion with their agronomist.’ What acres need it?” What percentage can do without?
“This is what I’m hearing from grassroots farmers,” Minister Leal said.
But after the minister indicated this in the Legislature, two of the agronomists took to Twitter. I will quote Ken Currah. His Twitter handle is @Ken_Currah. “@JeffLeal__MPP Not sure where you construe my comments re neonic reg paperwork as ‘easy’ as per your reply in QP yesterday to @TobyBarrettMPP.”
Bob Thirlwall on Twitter: “@JeffLeal_MPP thks for the mention at QP but dont misinterpret my helping farmers as support for your unworkable regs @TobyBarrettMPP.”
It was obvious then, in spite of Minister Leal’s name-dropping—and we have words here like “misinterpret” and “construe;” I did withdraw the word “misconstrue”—that these changes were going to be difficult to implement.
Bill 4 offers alternatives, to its credit, and as outlined today by the minister—by the member. You’ll be a minister someday, the member for Huron–Bruce, Lisa Thompson. We have some alternatives here, very specific to the issue at hand. I certainly welcome further discussion this afternoon. There are probably maybe four minutes left. I really look forward to discussion at committee. Let’s pick a committee that has an open agenda and let’s get this out for a fulsome discussion—not just on Twitter.