Bees, energy and myths

The Glengarry News - Glengarry Supplement - - News -

There is no short­age of is­sues when it comes to farm­ing.

Don McCabe, pres­i­dent of the 37,000-mem­ber On­tario Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture (OFA), ad­dresses some of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s con­cern in his most re­cent re­port.

“Farm­ers con­sider reg­u­la­tions to be the num­ber one is­sue af­fect­ing their busi­nesses. The OFA has been pleased to work with sev­eral min­istries on be­half of the On­tario agri­cul­tural sec­tor on the Open for Busi­ness ini­tia­tive, and looks for­ward to con­tin­ued im­prove­ments in the reg­u­la­tory process,” he writes

The agri­cul­ture and agri-food in­dus­try is the only sec­tor con­tin­u­ing to hold stake­holder meet­ings through the Open for Busi­ness process. Pro­vin­cial min­istries are in­volved in the process.

The link be­tween pes­ti­cide use and bee colony col­lapse con­tin­ues to be a con­tentious topic.

The province’s so­lu­tion is not work­able, the fed­er­a­tion con­tends.

The province is mov­ing for­ward with a “pol­li­na­tor health strat­egy,” which is de­signed to re­duce neon­i­coti­noids ap­pli­ca­tion by corn and soy­bean pro­duc­ers.

The OFA, rec­og­niz­ing the need for the plan, also en­cour­ages the gov­ern­ment to fo­cus on all fac­tors that have been iden­ti­fied as pos­si­ble con­trib­u­tors to bee health, not just the use of neon­i­coti­noids.

The OFA has ques­tions about the reg­u­la­tory process that would be re­quired for the gov­ern­ment to reach the re­duc­tions in use of neon­i­coti­noid seed treat­ment by On­tario farm­ers. “The cur­rent process out­lined to reach these dra­mat­i­cally lower lev­els of use is not ev­i­dence-based and very in­con­sis­tent with the gov­ern­ment’s own Open for Busi­ness con­sul­ta­tion process,” ar­gues Mr. McCabe. “In very prac­ti­cal terms, the OFA won­ders how the gov­ern­ment will ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently mon­i­tor and reg­u­late any new re­stric­tions im­posed on the use of neon­i­coti­noid seed treat­ment. And more specif­i­cally, the sug­ges­tion that In­te­grated Pest Man­age­ment (IPM) will be a new so­lu­tion is not a work­able op­tion be­cause of the way seed is treated, or­dered and sold in On­tario.”

The OFA states: “On­tario can’t sup­port vi­able, sus­tain­able farm busi­nesses in this type of reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment.”

The OFA is com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing a healthy bioe­con­omy in On­tario us­ing re­new­able re­sources and con­vert­ing them into feed, fuel, bioen­ergy and other bio-based prod­ucts. The goal is to at­tract and build bio­pro­cess­ing plants in On­tario and de­velop ad­di­tional energy gen­er­a­tion through biodi­ges­tion.

The lobby group is press­ing the province to in­crease pro­vin­cial trans­fers to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to en­sure they don’t need to re­sort to ex­ces­sive prop­erty taxes to raise the rev­enues needed for mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices. The OFA will also be ad­vo­cat­ing for ru­ral in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ments. “We want to en­sure that the range of ser­vices avail­able in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties — roads and bridges plus public ser­vices that in­clude ac­cess to health care, child and schools — are sim­i­lar to those of­fered in ur­ban ar­eas,” says Mr. McCabe. Like ev­ery­one else, farm­ers are in­creas­ingly con­cerned about the ris­ing costs of energy.

“OFA will be ask­ing for pro­gram de­tails on the re­cent in­vest­ment in nat­u­ral gas ex­pan­sion in ru­ral On­tario with $200 mil­lion in loans and $30 mil­lion in grants over two years. We’ll also be ad­vo­cat­ing for the On­tario gov­ern­ment to de­velop a farm and in­dus­trial elec­tric­ity rate , with a plan to rein­tro­duce farm and in­dus­trial rates start­ing with the 2015 pro­vin­cial bud­get.”

The fed­er­a­tion “ac­knowl­edges that cli­mate change is hap­pen­ing here, ev­i­denced by more fre­quent ex­treme weather events and pat­terns,” says the pres­i­dent. “We’re work­ing at the grass­roots level for an ap­proach to de­velop poli­cies and pro­grams to help our mem­bers mit­i­gate and adapt to cli­mate change. On­tario farm­ers must take ac­tion to ad­dress the causes and im­pacts of cli­mate change.”

The OFA “be­lieves that poli­cies, pro­grams and re­search ini­tia­tives must be de­vel­oped with gov­ern­ment and so­ci­ety to re­duce the causes and to en­able farm­ers to cope with the ef­fects of cli­mate change.”

Im­prove­ments needed

More than two-thirds of OFA mem­bers be­lieve Busi­ness Risk Man­age­ment (BRM) pro­grams do not meet their needs.

But that is a more pos­i­tive re­sponse than the one re­ceived in 2010, when 88 per cent were dis­sat­is­fied.

Per­cep­tions

Across Canada, or­ga­ni­za­tions are try­ing to end many mis­con­cep­tions about the in­dus­try. Here are some num­bers to re­spond to the skewed im­age of farm­ing.

-- 51 per cent of farms are adopt­ing new in­no­va­tive tech­nolo­gies and prac­tices

-- 44 per cent of farms are plan­ning to ex­pand their oper­a­tions (com­pared to 41% in 2011)

-- 21 per cent of farm­ers plan to hire new em­ploy­ees

-- 95 per cent of farm­ers are tak­ing ac­tion to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment

-- 83 per cent of farm­ers who are plan­ning to trans­fer their busi­ness in the next three years will be pass­ing the farm on to a fam­ily mem­ber.

FILE PHOTO

SHAR­ING: So­lar pan­els have been crop­ping up on many area farms, pro­vid­ing another source of in­come for land own­ers.

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