Ont. farmers file for stay of province’s neonic regs

Western corn rootworm larvae. (Scott Bauer photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Ontario’s corn and soybean grower group is taking the province’s planned regulations on the use and sale of pesticide-treated seed to court.

Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) said Monday it filed a request late last week with the provincial Superior Court of Justice in Toronto, seeking a legal “interpretation” of the province’s rules on neonicotinoid-treated seed, which are due to take effect Wednesday.

GFO said it will also ask the court to delay implementation of the proposed regulations until May 1 next year or “until such time as the requirements of the regulation can reasonably be met.”

If GFO can get a stay against the regulations, farmers will be able to plant treated corn and soy next year under the same rules they followed during the 2015 planting season, the group said.

Toronto lawyer Eric Gillespie, representing GFO, said on a conference call Monday the central issue will be “whether the regulation is, in fact, workable” for growers and the seed industry.

At issue, he said, is the requirement that farmers perform and submit soil inspection pest assessments — verifying whether pests are present above threshold levels — before they can legally use treated seed in 2016 on more than 50 per cent of the total area where they plan to plant corn or soybeans.

Seed must be ordered in fall for planting the following spring, he said, and there’s “simply no time” for farmers to conduct those assessments for review before they have to book their seed.

“From the perspective of people who know,” Gillespie said, the rule appears to be “unworkable” and a “legal absurdity” — that is, a situation where a law is brought into effect that can’t be followed in a practical way.

GFO said it hopes to get a court date in July, before the new neonic regulations require any specific action on the part of soybean and corn growers.

Taking a provincial regulation to court “was not easy and is unprecedented in the history of our organization, but it is necessary and the outcome of our multi-step legal strategy will be critical to the livelihood of grain farmers across the province,” GFO CEO Barry Senft said in a release.

In the meantime, he said, the group is asking farmers and industry stakeholders for “patience in allowing the first steps of this request for a stay — to delay implementation of the regulations — to be heard, before the agricultural community responds to the regulations.”

GFO said it will advise farmers to “continue to monitor the case, as it is hoped relief from the regulations will come in the month of July, prior to seed orders for 2016.”

Beyond the 2016 growing season, the neonic regulations call for growers to complete integrated pest management (IPM) training and complete pest assessment reports before they can buy neonic-treated seed for any percentage of their corn or soy acres at all.

Beyond 2017, a requirement that pest assessments be conducted by professional pest advisors, rather than by farmers themselves, will begin to be phased in across the province on a geographic basis. — AGCanada.com Network


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