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Pesticide labels and our reputation

The costly consequences of breaking the rules

Will Rogers once said, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.” That is a quote that applies to every part of the Canadian grain industry, including farmers.

Canada has a strong reputation for consistently delivering high-quality grains, oilseeds and special crops to our domestic and international customers. There are circumstances when this reputation can be damaged by things outside of the control of an individual producer. Individual producers can’t control the impact weather has on quality. Individual farmers can’t speed up rail car delivery. Foreign governments might apply non-science-based rules that cause some consumers to question the safety of imports from other countries.

But there are some factors that impact our international reputation that farmers can control entirely. Religiously following the labels on pesticide products is the most prominent example of this.

In the fall rush, some farmers might think to themselves, “Combining a few days before the pre-harvest interval is up won’t really make a difference right?” Or perhaps, “I really don’t have time to clean out the truck, that little bit of treated seed won’t matter will it?” They couldn’t be more wrong.

Shipments of Canadian grain are tested for pesticide residues in parts per billion or even parts per trillion. Most of us can’t quite grasp the magnitude of a billion. It might help to think of a part per billion as one second in 32 years.

Customers of Canadian grain will complain if samples of vessel shipments contain pesticide residues that are at, or are close to, international maximum limits. There is only one reason why this happens, and that is because of individual producers not following application guidelines on pesticide labels. Fortunately this is a rare occurrence — but it’s an entirely preventable problem — and it should simply never happen.

Individual producers can’t control everything that goes into our international reputation and brand. But they do control some of the most important factors. Think about this reputation as you meet the demands of getting a crop in the ground, through to harvest and into the hands of customers. Some key critical management practices include:

  • Following the label for the application of every pesticide;
  • Ensuring the pre-harvest interval is respected in every case;
  • Never allowing fertilizer or treated seed to be delivered to an elevator, processor or feedlot; and
  • Ensuring the accuracy of all declarations for class eligibility.

Adhering to these guidelines will not just protect your reputation, it will protect your neighbour ultimately, the entire Canadian grain industry.

Canada’s reputation for reliable, safe, high-quality food is well earned. Our agricultural products come from clean air, clean water and clean land that are the envy of most of the world. Our rigorous science-based regulatory and food safety systems are second to none. Canadian farmers deliver high-quality products through sustainable management practices that respect the natural environment in which we live and make the most efficient use of the resources needed for production. Preserving this hard-won reputation is in everyone’s best interest. The cost of losing or even damaging this reputation would be enormous.

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