Rules and Regulations

by Ghislain Gervais - président

How are your fields coming along? Winter loved us so much we thought it would never leave, but we’re starting to see better weather and working hard to make the best of the upcoming season.  It’s a real pleasure to work and be part of this seasonal renewal.

It gives me hope to see your enthusiasm as you bring your projects to fruition, which leads me to believe that we should enjoy a bountiful harvest.  That is my wish for us all! 

Harvest abundance and quality are not things left to chance.  They are the result of years of hard work, deliberate and thoughtful management decisions, the use of proven technology and agricultural practices that respect established rules.

This proven technology also includes crop protection products.  These products work well, but as we all know, they are costly and not without risk to the environment or to the people who use it, mainly us.  Agricultural producers don’t spray their fields “just in case”. 

For obvious reasons, the use of such products needs to be strictly outlined.  And that is the goal of the Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, which implemented the Stratégie québécoise sur les pesticides [Quebec Strategy on Pesticides] on February 19th of this year.  

The Quebec government decided to entrust agronomist with the responsibility of prescribing five of the most hazardous pesticides, plus they added coated seeds to the “pesticides” category. 

Although this seems highly progressive, the quick implementation of this new regulation (including the regulations governing the use of atrazine) will force agricultural producers and their agronomists to revise their crop protection programs.

In addition to the obvious consequences of enacting this new rule, agricultural producers will have to deal with even more administrative procedures, most notably that of maintaining a crop protection intervention log.  As a whole, these measures make sense, but they also add to the already heavy administrative burden of food producers in Quebec, the likes of which are not shared by any other North American province. 

That’s why La Coop fédérée has undertaken discussions with the government, as part of the framework for implementing the new Politique bioalimentaire [Biofood Policy], in which a special committee would be created to examine the issue of the financial and administrative burden ensuing from the many rules and laws that regulate our field of work.

The implementation of this new crop protection regulation also raised questions about apparent conflicts of interest that seem to emerge since agronomists will be allowed to prescribe the use of pesticides to the companies they work for.

In fact, the professional order of Quebec agronomists recently stated that, all agronomists, whether they are consultants or employees, are exposed to the risk of a perceived conflict of interest and must work according to their profession’s established rules and standards. 

A code of conduct, values and ethics dictate their daily operations and practices.  In fact, their professional order has put into action guidelines and tools to make sure the professional skills, integrity and independence of all of its members. 

As for La Coop network, it has begun a campaign of information and awareness intended to provide its agronomists with an outline of their new responsibilities, especially as they pertain to the crop protection intervention log and the conditions that will allow them to prescribe the pesticides targeted by the government’s restrictions.  We’ll be ready to provide you with all the support you many need in making your decisions.

As an organisation, we are aware of the public’s concerns in terms of pesticide use and we certainly intend to comply with a regulation that encourages a sustainable approach and use of pesticides and coated seeds.

The sector’s stakeholders, including those in the industry, must be called upon to meet society’s new expectations.  In fact, La Coop fédérée reiterates that, despite the misleading appearances resulting from a recent media campaign orchestrated by various interest groups, the government’s orientation consisting of not making a distinction among agronomists is the best option to reach its objectives of reducing diffuse pollution in Quebec’s waterways created by the most hazardous pesticides.

Wishing you all a great summer!