Ex­ten­sion to con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod on strych­nine de­nied

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Agriculture - BY JAMIE RIEGER

De­spite nu­mer­ous re­quests from var­i­ous agri­cul­tural as­so­ci­a­tions and in­di­vid­u­als to ex­tend the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod on fed­eral strych­nine re­view, there was no in­tent for to do so on the fi­nal day for sub­mit­ting a re­sponse, An­dre Gagnon, me­dia re­la­tions of­fi­cer for Health Canada said on Sept. 27, the fi­nal day of the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod.

Don Con­nick, di­rec­tor for District 2 of the Agri­cul­tural Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Saskatchewan (APAS), farms near Gull Lake and was dis­ap­pointed to hear that the re­quest for an ex­ten­sion on the con­sul­ta­tion was not granted.

"This is very un­for­tu­nate. With har­vest not done by a long shot, peo­ple are very busy. I feel there needs to be a full con­sul­ta­tion by those who are af­fected the most," said Con­nick.

APAS is one of a group of Saskatchewan or­ga­ni­za­tions that grouped to­gether early in Septem­ber to urge Health Canada to ex­tend the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod be­cause many farm­ers are still in the midst of har­vest.

Health Canada reg­is­ters pes­ti­cides af­ter a strin­gent, sci­ence-bases eval­u­a­tion, re-eval­u­ates pes­ti­cides that have been on the mar­ket on a 15-year cy­cle to en­sure the prod­uct meets cur­rent sci­en­tific stan­dards, and pro­motes sus­tain­able pest man­age­ment.

Health Canada's Pest Man­age­ment Reg­u­la­tory Agency, which an­nounced on June 29 the 90-day con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod, is re­spon­si­ble for pes­ti­cide reg­u­la­tions within the Pest Con­trol Prod­ucts Act (PCPA).

The 2% liq­uid strych­nine that is un­der re­view falls un­der Re­stricted Pes­ti­cide reg­u­la­tion of the PCPA.

While heav­ily reg­u­lated and con­trolled, strych­nine is used by many in the agriculture com­mu­nity to erad­i­cated Richard­son's ground squir­rels, an­i­mals that mul­ti­ply quickly and can cause ex­ten­sive dam­age to crops and pas­tures.

"My feel­ing on strych­nine is that we do need it as an­other weapon in our ar­se­nal. We've been very for­tu­nate with years when we do not need it, but the last few years we have. We are now com­ing off two dry years and go­phers have been a prob­lem," said Con­nick.

"West of Gull Lake, there was a re­ally bad in­fes­ta­tion on some lighter land and the pro­ducer just threw his hands up. He didn't know what to do. It's amaz­ing how many go­phers there were out there. They were ev­ery­where."

The 2% liq­uid strych­nine has been the most ef­fec­tive tool for pro­duc­ers in com­bat­ing the dam­ag­ing go­pher pop­u­la­tions on their fields.

"I un­der­stand the con­cerns peo­ple have. Strych­nine has to be used re­spon­si­bly and most pro­duc­ers know that and there needs to be on-go­ing ed­u­ca­tion. Strych­nine falls un­der Re­stricted Pes­ti­cide reg­u­la­tion, so peo­ple can't just go into the store and buy it," said Con­nick.

"It is distributed through the Ru­ral Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of­fice here in Saskatchewan (and through county of­fices in Al­berta) and it is stored through un­der safe con­di­tions. When you buy it, you have to sign for it, so there is trace­abil­ity there. It is not read­ily avail­able for any­body."

The most ef­fec­tive time for us­age is early spring when the things are green­ing up and ground squir­rels are first emerg­ing from hi­ber­na­tion and prior to the ar­rival of young ones.

"The go­phers tra­di­tion­ally like the early spring green-up. So, you have to get your bait out there early," he said.

"It has to be used in the spring or early sum­mer and if there is a bad in­fes­ta­tion, it may need to be re­peated. Once you get into July though, it is al­most too late. There are other prod­ucts out there, but they are not nearly as ef­fec­tive."

Con­nick said he viewed the pro­pos­als, but said none were prac­ti­cal for a farm­ing oper­a­tion.

"I looked at some of the pro­pos­als and they just are not prac­ti­cal for in­te­grated pest man­age­ment," he said.

There are pro­duc­ers out there who do not use strych­nine, but are not op­posed to the use of it when it is nec­es­sary.

"There are valid rea­sons for its use, but there needs to be due dili­gence. We just don't use it here be­cause of the live­stock, we never have, and we have lots of hawks and ea­gles to get rid of the go­phers," said Aaron Brower, who ranches in south­ern Al­berta. "For guys who have crops though, it's a must for them. If I was crop­ping, I would prob­a­bly use strych­nine too."

Nu­mer­ous agriculture or­ga­ni­za­tions in Saskatchewan and Al­berta have voiced their con­cerns to con­tinue al­low­ing the use of strych­nine at least un­til an ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tive can be found and to ex­tend the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod which ended on Sept. 27.

The Saskatchewan As­so­ci­a­tion of Ru­ral Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties (SARM) of­fered its sup­port and joined sev­eral agriculture as­so­ci­a­tions in ex­tend­ing the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod.

"We un­der­stand that strych­nine is the most ef­fec­tive way to con­trol go­pher in­fes­ta­tions," said Roy Orb, SARM pres­i­dent in a press re­lease. " We need ad­e­quate time to gather feed­back from our agri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers be­cause we know first-hand the sig­nif­i­cant dam­age go­phers can have on crops and live­stock with­out a means of ef­fec­tive con­trol."

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from other or­ga­ni­za­tions also is­sued state­ments.

"Saskatchewan's ranch­ers and farm­ers are the only sec­tor that would be im­pacted by the PMRA re­view," said Todd Lewis, pres­i­dent of the Agri­cul­tural Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Saskatchewan. "The time-pe­riod for the con­sul­ta­tion is to­tally un­rea­son­able, given that they are all com­pletely in­volved in har­vest and prepa­ra­tion for win­ter."

"Right now, pro­duc­ers have no equiv­a­lent al­ter­na­tive to strych­nine avail­able for con­trol­ling Richard­son's ground squir­rels on their crop and grass­lands and they would ex­pe­ri­ence ma­jor fi­nan­cial losses from go­pher dam­age if they are not able to use strych­nine," said Bill Hu­ber, pres­i­dent of Saskatchewan Stock Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. "An ex­ten­sion to the com­ment pe­riod would al­low those most likely to use the go­pher-con­trol prod­uct strych­nine the time to par­tic­i­pate in the con­sul­ta­tion."

"This is an im­por­tant tool for cat­tle pro­duc­ers es­pe­cially as dry con­di­tions favour go­pher pro­lif­er­a­tion. Un­for­tu­nately. a con­sult at this time has missed sev­eral peo­ple as they work to bring in their hay and other crops. An ex­ten­sion would help make sure all are aware of the op­por­tu­nity to weigh in," said Rick Toney, pres­i­dent of Saskatchewan Cat­tle­men's As­so­ci­a­tion.

Carol Kitchen, pres­i­dent and CEO of UFA (United Farm­ers of Al­berta Co-op­er­a­tive Ltd.) penned a let­ter to fed­eral Agriculture Min­is­ter Lawrence McAu­lay in sup­port of farm­ers and ranch­ers who use strych­nine.

"Our own­ers pride them­selves on be­ing good stew­ards of the land they live on with re­spect for nat­u­ral habi­tants and the environment. How­ever, ground squir­rel in­fes­ta­tion is a se­ri­ous prob­lem that has a detri­men­tal im­pact to their eco­nomic liveli­hood. UFA ac­knowl­edges that there are al­ter­na­tive op­tions to con­trol ground squir­rel in­fes­ta­tions, but none of these al­ter­na­tives are nearly as ef­fec­tive and only pro­vide short-term so­lu­tions re­sult­ing in re-in­va­sion oc­cur­ring quickly. Maxim 2% Liq­uid Strych­nine Con­cen­trate is the only so­lu­tion that pro­vides long-term re­sults," she wrote. "We sup­port ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness on re­spon­si­ble ap­pli­ca­tion of Maxim 2% Liq­uid Strych­nine Con­cen­trate, but fully con­test the com­plete ban­ning of this prod­uct."

Like­wise, the Cana­dian Cat­tle­men's As­so­ci­a­tion stated that it was also ask­ing for the reg­is­tered use of the pest man­age­ment con­trol prod­uct to re­main in place un­til there is an ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tive in its place. And, they were ask­ing for the de­vel­op­ment of an an­ti­co­ag­u­lant tox­i­cant bait where a small amount would be con­sumed in a sin­gle feed­ing.

"Un­til such a tox­i­cant is avail­able, the CCA rec­om­mends the cur­rent pest con­trol re­main ap­proved and avail­able to bona fide farm­ers and ranch­ers and af­fected mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties for the con­trol of ground squir­rels," the CCA state­ment read.

The tim­ing of hold­ing the con­sul­ta­tion dur­ing har­vest is rem­i­nis­cent of last year when the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod for pro­posed fed­eral tax changes, changes that would have a big im­pact on those in the agriculture busi­ness, was also held dur­ing one of the busiest times of the year for farm­ers, har­vest.

"By do­ing this at such a busy time, is down­right dis­re­spect­ful," said Con­nick.

Gagnon could not re­veal a ball­park fig­ure on the num­ber of re­sponses re­ceived or any fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about the con­sul­ta­tion, but did say the re­sults would likely be re­leased in two to three weeks.

File photo

The de­bate on how to best han­dle go­phers has been de­bated in busi­ness and gov­ern­ment of­fices the last num­ber of months.

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