Media Statement - Grain Farmers work diligently to protect bees

GUELPH, ON, May 24, 2014 /CNW/ - "Ontario's corn, soybean, and wheat farmers are committed stewards of the land. We recognize the importance of bees to the overall viability of agriculture and the food chain. We also recognize the importance of sustainably growing over 5 million acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat in our province to feed Ontario families and drive our economy."

Barry Senft, CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario

The decline of the bee population is a complex issue. Numerous risk factors to bee health have been identified, including varroa mites, poor nutrition/lack of forage, drought, winter-kill, diseases, and exposure to neonicotinoids. The use of neonicotinoid seed treatments in grain farming is critical to the success of crops in Ontario – they protect seedlings during the delicate stages of germination and emergence against deadly pests that can decimate entire family farms. That's why Grain Farmers of Ontario is actively working to enhance bee protection, while also working to ensure the viability of corn, soybean, and wheat farming in Ontario.

Grain Farmers of Ontario was one of thirty-three members from government, research institutions, industry, and farm organizations that participated in the Ontario Bee Health Working Group in 2013-2014. The goal of the group was to identify and develop options for action to mitigate the risks from neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seeds on bee health.

The resulting report outlined the following recommendations, the majority of which Grain Farmers of Ontario and the grain industry have taken action on, in collaboration with Ontario's bee keepers.

 

 

Bee Health Working

Group Recommendation

Grain Industry Action

Improvements to
Growing Practices

-    Updated Best Management Practices for 2014 can be viewed here: http://www.gfo.ca/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=Jsg4hLPClt4%3d&tabid=965)

-    Grain Farmers of Ontario has committed over $260,000 to new integrated pest management research

-    Untreated seed available for purchase in 2013 for the 2014 planting season

-    Crop rotation (corn, soybeans, wheat or other cereal crop) continues to be a common practice among grain farmers, dictated by soil and environmental conditions

Improved Communications
Between Stakeholders

-   Grain Farmers of Ontario has developed a new SmartPhone app called 'BeConnected' to allow farmers and beekeepers to locate each other (by GPS location) quickly and easily, and to facilitate communication

-   Grain Farmers of Ontario has also communicated information to stakeholders about best management practices and the fluency agent through the Ontario Grain Farmer magazine, advertisements in farm publications, on several radio programs, at their Annual District Meetings by facilitating panel discussions, and a dedicated webpage: www.gfo.ca/protectingpollinators

Environmental Enhancements

-   Conversations between Grain Farmers of Ontario and the Independent Commercial Beekeepers are ongoing surrounding environmental enhancements

Technical Options

-    Deflectors for planting equipment are being pilot tested during the 2014 planting season

-    New fluency agent, to reduce dust, is mandatory for use in planters for 2014 season

-    CleanFARMS is operating a pilot program in southwestern Ontario to collect, and safely dispose of, empty seed and pesticide bags

Mandatory Training

-    The Ontario Pesticide Safety Course now includes a section on the proper handling and use of treated seed

Regulatory Approaches

-    Grain farmers across the province are actively demonstrating outstanding environmental stewardship and commitment to improving bee health in Ontario

– a ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments, critical to the sustainable farming of 5 million acres of corn and soybeans, is not appropriate

-    A recent study on the impacts of a restriction on neonicotinoid seed treatments on Ontario corn and soybean production indicates:

-    Revenue from total corn and soybean production could fall by $600 million without access to neonicotinoid seed treatments

-    The total negative impact on Ontario's GDP, including supply chain effects, is  estimated to be over $400 million

SOURCE Grain Farmers of Ontario

For further information: Barry Senft, CEO - 519-767-4119; bsenft@gfo.ca; Meghan Burke, Communications - 519 767-2773; mburke@gfo.ca