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Cosmetic ban would divide farmyard and fields
I understand Manitoba may be considering a ban on “cosmetic” pesticide usage, similar to the one in Ontario. Rural Manitobans may be interested in observations from a rural Ontarian familiar with how the Ontario ban occurred and what it has meant.
The Ontario ban was announced by the premier during a 2007 provincial election campaign stop with no external consultation, even with the province’s own government-appointed Ontario Pesticide Advisory Committee. The Ontario announcement may have won some urban votes in 2007, but undoubtedly contributed to the strong anti-government rural vote in 2011. Rural Ontarians have rebelled against what they see as regulations imposed for political benefit in the Greater Toronto Area, at the expense of rural ridings.
Whether city lawns have dandelions or not is of marginal concern to rural people. But they do object when they cannot use the same materials on their lawns, ornamentals and gardens as they or their neighbours use on farm fields only a few feet away. Legally, farmers cannot spray their own lawns to prevent weed seed contamination into adjacent fields, or use fungicides for disease control on garden vegetables — even with the same products used on their farm crops.
My wife has several century-old Hansa roses around our farmhouse. To prevent them from being killed by the disease black spot, we spray them illegally with Folicur also used for fusarium control on our wheat.
While not of direct personal concern, Ontario farmers have sympathy for urban friends forced to pay outrageous prices for “alternative” pest control products which control weeds poorly and for very dilute solutions of the few synthetic pesticide products (e.g. Roundup) for which usage is still allowed.
Saddest of all are the sights of 1) very elderly people on their hands and knees trying to remove lawn weeds when a dollar’s worth of Health Canada-approved products would do the job, and 2) municipal workers using two-cycle string trimmers, spewing out large quantities of known aerosol hydrocarbon carcinogens, to control weeds once controlled by herbicides not considered carcinogenic by Health Canada or other national pesticide regulators around the world.
For the benefit of anti-pesticide friends who may attack my message as “yet another contribution from the pesticide industry,” I have no connections financial or otherwise with the pesticide industry nor have I ever.
Where is the vision?
It’s essential that Manitoba’s agriculture minister provide a strong voice during the federal-provincial-territorial negotiations for the new five-year Growing Forward 2 (GF 2) program. However, I have serious concerns about his lack of any long-term strategy for this important sector.
During a committee meeting in the recent legislative session, I asked Minister Ron Kostyshyn about his vision for agriculture in Manitoba for the next five years. He said that he “would love to see good prices… and, hopefully, Mother Nature behaves with us.”
Needless to say, I was somewhat surprised by his answer. Agriculture contributes millions of dollars annually to Manitoba’s economy and creates thousands of jobs. I was expecting considerably more depth than the minister’s lightweight response.
Matters under consideration during the GF 2 discussions include business risk management programs, environmental programs, and ways to enhance market access for our agricultural products, among others. The goal is to help ensure future prosperity for Manitoba’s producers and agribusinesses. Our agriculture minister must advocate strongly on their behalf, but I fear this won’t happen.
There is simply too much at stake for Manitoba in Growing Forward 2 than for our agriculture minister to be basing his negotiations on hopes for good weather and strong commodity prices.
Unfortunately, this latest NDP agriculture minister simply seems to be repeating the history of his predecessors by again failing to outline a strong, growth-oriented, long-term vision for Manitoba’s agricultural sector.
Progressive Conservative Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives critic