The blame game

FROM THE CEO'S DESK

Barry Senft, CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario

I’M FED UP with the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (OBA) continuously blaming every problem relating to bee health on neonicotinoids. This group has left behind its traditional role as a spokesperson for nature to become a highly politicized entity that believes a ban on neonicotinoids is the only solution to improving pollinator health and preventing hive loss. They have ignored every other factor known to impact bee health — including winter loss, diseases spread by varroa mites, and poor nutrition. The OBA has walked away from joint solutions, including the development of an app that would connect farmers and beekeepers. They are so busy blaming grain farmers they are not doing their share to address the problems within their own sector.

What makes it so frustrating is that directors and staff members of Grain Farmers of Ontario have dedicated countless hours to meeting with politicians and industry partners to develop real solutions that address our role in the protection of pollinators. Farmers have proactively and willingly adapted their crop practices and equipment to meet new standards even though these changes are not without risk to their own operations.

The story told by the OBA is that farmers could not access untreated seed this spring. When asked to back up this claim with specifics and names, one gets a blank stare. This is because, in reality, seed dealers have offered seed without neonicotinoids, creating a supply of fungicide-only and untreated corn and soybean seed. Countless hours of training at grower meetings and the relabeling of 50,000 skids of seed bags informed farmers of new best management practices. The use of fluency agent, distributed with every seed order, reduced dust generated at planting by up to 70 per cent.

Further to that, deflectors installed on planters reduce dust wind speeds to that of a household fan (from 110 km/hr to 15 km/hr). Recognizing the need to reduce dust, farmers have installed after-market deflectors at a cost of $1,000 to $4,000. Equipment manufacturers have committed that as of 2016, all new machinery will follow ISO standards for dust reduction.

According to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), our efforts are working. Fewer bee death incidents were reported during this planting season than in 2013.

We have made every effort to reach out to the beekeeping community and have established valuable relationships with individual beekeepers who are committed to working with us on mitigating the risks to pollinators. We were pleased to participate in a ‘Day for Bees and Agriculture’ in August which demonstrated how everyone within the agricultural community can work together.

We look forward to continuing our work with these beekeepers and our industry partners to foster open dialogue with the provincial and federal governments on the regulation and continued use of neonicotinoids as a seed treatment. And we will continue to do our part, and more, to help maintain a healthy bee population. It’s too bad the OBA isn’t willing to do the same. •

About Barry Senft 61 Articles
CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario