Ontario Agronomists Upset by Ag Minister Leal’s Use of Neonic Regulation Quotes

Ontario corn and soybean growers and agronomists are upset about comments made by the provincial agriculture minister in Question Period this week regarding the government’s new rules limiting the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments.

Two seed company agronomists say Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal misconstrued their words after Leal was asked by Tory agriculture critic Toby Barrett to explain where his department would find enough crop advisors that meet the qualifications required in the new seed treatment regulations.

To comply with the new seed treatment rules, farmers must have a Certified Crop Advisor perform a pest assessment to determine if they can use neonic-treated seed. Despite holding CCA credentials, advisors tied to companies that sell neonic seeds are disqualified, leading to concerns there will be a shortage of individuals to conduct the required assessments.

Grain Farmers of Ontario is currently taking the province to court over the regulations, arguing they are “not workable” by those who must adhere to them.

Related: Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Request of Stay Regarding Neonic Regs Gets Court Date

In his response to Barrett’s questions (see video below), Leal quoted three seed company agronomists — Greg Stewart of Maizex, Bob Thirlwall of Dekalb and Ken Currah of Pride Seeds, arguing that complying with the regulations is not difficult:

Mr. Speaker, I want to quote about some people who are agronomists in this area. Greg Stewart, the official agronomist for Maizex Seeds, has said about purchasing untreated seed when needed: “It’s not too difficult.” DeKalb agronomist Bob Thirwall said the process isn’t as onerous as some growers think: “We’ve talked about it with a few growers: Is it any more work than the paperwork for having insecticide applied by airplane? We decided it’s actually less work.” Ken Currah, Pride agronomist: “We are encouraging growers to have that discussion with their agronomists. ‘What acres need I need it on? What percentage can I do without?”

This is what I’m hearing from grassroots farmers.

Two of the agronomists quoted by Leal took to Twitter to share their perspective:

Leal spokesperson Christina Crowley told RealAgriculture the minister was simply quoting comments made by the three seed company agronomists in the Ontario Farmer newspaper (view the article here and here). “The three quotes referenced by Minister Leal during Question Period were taken verbatim from the September 1st Production Roundup section of the Ontario Farmer as Minister Leal is an avid reader of the newspaper. If there are concerns with the context to which the quotes were used, the agronomists should speak with Ontario Farmer about how their quotes were referenced within the article,” said Crowley. Leal’s comments also drew a strong reaction among Ontario farmers on Twitter: