Transcript: Mark Brock: Neonics on Trial | Feb 08, 2016

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and striped blue and black tie.

A caption on screen reads "More time for neonics."

Steve says ONTARIO WILL SOON BE THE
TOUGHEST JURISDICTION IN NORTH AMERICA.
FOR FARMERS WHO USE A TYPE OF
NEUROTOXIC PESTICIDE KNOWN AS
NEONICOTINOIDS.
BEEKEEPERS ARE PLEASED.
FARMERS?
WELL, IT'S COMPLICATED.
JOINING US NOW FOR MORE:
MARK BROCK, CHAIR OF THE GRAIN
FARMERS OF ONTARIO.

Mark is in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short white hair. He's wearing a gray suit and a checkered cyan shirt.

Steve continues NICE TO HAVE YOU HERE.

Mark says THANKS FOR
HAVING ME HERE.

The caption changes to "Appealing to the Court."

Steve says HOW LONG DID IT TAKE
TO GET TO OUR STUDIO?

Mark says NOT TOO BAD.
I WAS IN TORONTO ALREADY.
I POPPED DOWN THE STREET, WHICH
TAKES FOREVER.

Steve says YOU'RE FROM NORTH OF
LONDON.

Mark says IT'S ABOUT TWO
HOURS TO COME INTO THE CITY.

Steve says GOOD.
YOU'RE TAKING THE ONTARIO
GOVERNMENT TO COURT, EH?

Mark says YES.

Steve says HOW COME?

The caption changes to "Mark Brock. Grain Farmers of Ontario."

Mark says UNFORTUNATELY I
THINK THE CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE
ARISEN OUT OF THIS NEW
REGULATION THAT CAME INTO PLACE
JULY 1ST OF 2015 AROUND
NEONICOTINOID TREATMENT ON CORN
AND SOYBEANS.
THE ISSUE THERE IS WE FELT THERE
WAS SOME OVER RESTRICTIVE PARTS
OF THE REGULATION AROUND THE
PEST ASSESSMENT PORTION WHERE,
AS A PRODUCER, IT'S LIMITING MY
ABILITY TO CONTROL PESTS BECAUSE
I HAVE TO PROVE NEED FOR IT AND
IT'S DIFFICULT TO DO THAT IN
SOME CIRCUMSTANCES AND BECAUSE
OF THAT WE ARE CHALLENGING
GOVERNMENT TO MAKE IT HOPEFULLY
MORE PRACTICAL FOR FARMERS..

Steve says DO YOU APPRECIATE
THE FACT THAT THE GOVERNMENT IS
IN A TOUGH SPOT ON THIS?
ON THE ONE HAND YOU'VE GOT TO
DEAL WITH PESTS.
ON THE OTHER HAND, THERE ARE
BEES DYING EVERYWHERE BECAUSE OF
THESE PESTICIDES.
WHAT DO THEY DO?

Mark says WHEN YOU LOOK
AT THE SITUATION, THERE'S
CONCERN ABOUT POLLINATOR HEALTH
FROM EVERYBODY.
AS PRODUCERS AND FARMERS, WE'RE
CONCERNED ABOUT POLLINATOR
HEALTH TOO AS WELL.
WE'RE NOT ENTIRELY SURE THAT ALL
THE BEE DEATHS CAN BE CORRELATED
TO THE NEONICOTINOID SEED TREATMENT USE.
WE ARE TRYING TO MITIGATE OUR
IMPACT ON POLLINATORS AND WE
UNDERSTAND THE PROVINCE FEELS IT
NEEDS TO DO SOMETHING ON THIS.
WE WERE TOGETHER WITH THEM ON
DOING SOMETHING BUT THE SPEED AT
WHICH IT TOOK PLACE AND THE LACK
OF CONSULTATION ABOUT THE TRUE
IMPACT TO OUR FARM I DON'T THINK
HAPPENED IN A TRUE WAY.
THAT'S WHY WE BUMPED INTO THIS
ISSUE OF HAVING TO TAKE THEM TO
COURT.

Steve says YOUR FARM NORTH OF
LONDON, WHAT DO YOU GROW?

Mark says CORN WHEAT AND SOY BEANS

Steve says AND DO YOU HAVE A BEE
PROBLEM THERE?

Mark says I AM NOT AWARE OF IT, I DON'T
SEE HIVES AROUND THE AREA
WHERE I FARM. WE'VE TAKEN STEPS
ON OUR FARM TO USE A NEW FLUENCY
AGENT THAT WAS INTRODUCED IN 2014.

Steve says FLU--WHAT?

Mark says THE NEW FLUENCY AGENT, IN
TERMS OF HELPING MAKING SURE
THERE IS LESS DUST LEAVING THE
PLANTER AND STUFF LIKE THAT.

Steve says DO YOU USE NEONICS?

Mark says YES WE DO, WE USE
IT--THIS PAST YEAR ON 100 percent OF
CORN ACRES AND 75 percent OF OUR SOY
BEAN ACRES.

Steve says YOU DID NOT NOTICE
ANY BEES DYING...

Mark says NOT THAT I'M
AWARE OF-- AS I SAID WE'VE TAKEN
STEPS TO PUT DEFLECTORS ON OUR
PLANTER TO mitigate ANY RISK
TO POLLINATORS AND FOLLOW THE
NEW BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
BROUGHT FORWARD BY THE P.M.R.A
THE Pest Regulatory Management Agency.
THAT REGISTERS CHEMICAL PRODUCTS
FOR US IN CANADA. THEY IMPLEMENT
NEW STEPS TO HELP mitigate
RISK AND WE APPLY THOSE TO OUR
FARM CAUSE IT WAS A NEW LABEL
REQUIREMENT OF THE PRODUCT

Steve says HAS IT NOT BEEN
ADEQUATELY PROVEN TO YOUR
SATISFACTION THAT NEONICS ARE IN
FACT RESPONSIBLE FOR KILLING OFF LARGE NUMBERS OF BEES?

The caption changes to "Managing toxicity."

Mark says FROM OUR
STANDPOINT, WHAT WE UNDERSTAND
IS THAT, YES, WE KNOW THEY'RE VERY TOXIC TO BEES WHEN IN
CONTACT AT THE LETHAL DOSE.I
THINK FROM OUR STANDPOINT AND
SOME OF THE REPORTS THAT WE'VE
SEEN IS THAT WE'RE HAVING...
WE'RE USING THE PRODUCT BUT IT'S
SUB-LETHAL EXPOSURE TO BEES SO
IT'S NOT A LETHAL DOSE THAT THE
BEES ARE SEEN WITH IN OUR FIELDS
FROM SOME OF THE STUDIES WE'VE SEEN.
I THINK WE'RE CONFIDENT THAT IF
WE TAKE THE BEST MANAGEMENT
PRACTICES THAT WE NEED, THAT WE
SHOULD MITIGATE SOME OF THESE
BEE LOSSES.
WE'VE SEEN A DECLINE FROM 2013
TO 2015 OF 80 percent.
WE FEEL WE'RE TAKING THE RIGHT STEPS.

Steve says WHAT ABOUT CROP
ROTATION AS AN ALTERNATIVE
OPTION TO USING NEONICS?

Mark says CROP ROTATION
MAKES GOOD ECONOMIC SENSE AS A WHOLE.
WE DO ROTATE CROPS.

Steve says YOU DO IT ON YOUR FARM?

Mark says YES, WE DO
CORN, WHEAT, SOYBEAN ROTATION.
WE DO SEE THAT KIND OF
TRANSITION OR THAT YEAR OFF
APPROACH AND WITH SOME NEW
PRODUCTS COMING TO THE
MARKETPLACE AND NEW INNOVATIONS,
THERE PROBABLY WILL BE A DECLINE
OF THE NEONICS SEED TREATMENT.

Steve says MARK, THE GOVERNMENT
says THAT ONLY ABOUT 20 percent OF
FIELDS ACTUALLY NEED THIS
PESTICIDE.
HOW DO YOU USE IT?

The caption changes to "Need assessment."

Mark says IT'S AN EXAMPLE
OF SOIL TYPE.
SO WHAT THE PROVINCE LOOKED AT
QUICKLY AND SAID, BASED ON THE
SOIL TYPE, THEY'RE MORE PRONE TO
BE DAMAGE FROM THESE PESTS IN
THESE AREAS, AND THAT MAKES
UP -- THAT SOIL TYPE MAKES UP
ABOUT 20 percent OF THE PROVINCE.
HOWEVER, I HAVE THAT SOIL TYPE
THROUGH EVERY FIELD I HAVE.

Steve says SO YOU HAVE TO USE
NEONICS ON EVERYTHING?

Mark says YES.
WE DON'T HAVE THE INNOVATION TO
BE SELECTIVE IN THE FIELD.
WE'RE TRYING FROM THE SHOTGUN TO
RIFLE APPROACH...

Steve says WHICH MEANS WHAT?

Mark says WE'RE TRYING TO
BE MORE PRECISE IN WHAT WE TRY
TO DO.
INSTEAD OF SAYING WE'RE GOING TO
USE THIS JUST EVERYWHERE, WE'RE
TRYING TO GET TO A POINT WHERE
WE CAN SAY WE'RE STRATEGICALLY
USING IT.
AS TECHNOLOGY INVOLVES, WE CAN
BE EVEN MORE STRATEGIC WITH THE
USE.

Steve says IF YOU DIDN'T USE
NEONICS -- YOU USE IT RIGHT NOW
ON ALL OF YOUR FIELDS -- IF YOU
DIDN'T USE IT, WHAT WOULD
HAPPEN?

Mark says I THINK WE'LL
SEE PLANT LOSS AND THAT EQUATES
BACK INTO ECONOMIC LOSS.
THERE'S BEEN SOME REPORTS OUT
THERE THAT SHOWS AN ECONOMIC
IMPACT, AND THAT'S WHY WE
STARTED USING THEM IN THE FIRST
PLACE.
WE DON'T USE ANYTHING THAT
DOESN'T PROVIDE VALUE BACK TO
OUR FARM AND ALSO LETS US BE
MORE ENVIRONMENTALLY
SUSTAINABLE.
WE FEEL WE CAN USE THESE
PRODUCTS INSTEAD OF OTHERS AND
THEREFORE BE BETTER ON THE
ENVIRONMENT.
IT COULD BE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT
ON OUR FARMS WITH THE REPLANT
COSTS AND HAVING TO DEAL WITH
SOME OF THE PLANT LOSS THAT WE
WOULD SEE.

Steve says WE SPOKE TO A YORK
UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR NAMED AMROO
SZABO.
HE SAID GETTING RID OF NEONICS
DOESN'T SIGNIFICANTLY AFFECT
CROP YIELD.
HOWEVER, BACK IN DECEMBER 2014
THE GLOBE AND MAIL RAN A STORY
AND IT SAID...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "The price of compliance." A picture of open handcuffs appears next to the quote. The quote reads "THE GRAIN FARMERS OF ONTARIO, WHICH IS THE LARGEST farmers' lobby group, says the 'near ban' will handcuff farmers. The group funded a study with the chemical lobbyists CropLife Canada that said restricting neonics will slash crop revenues by 630 million dollars."
Quoted from Eric Atkins, The Globe and Mail. December 14, 2014.

Steve says WHO'S RIGHT?

The caption changes to "Best practices."

Mark says I THINK IT'S
ONE OF THOSE SITUATIONS WHERE
YOU HAVE TO TAKE EVERYTHING IN
STRIDE.
SO THAT'S ONE REPORT THAT'S COME
OUT AND SOMEONE ELSE HAS A
REPORT THAT WILL COUNTER THAT.
I THINK A BIG THING THAT SUMS
THAT UP IS THIS NEW REPORT THAT
CAME OUT.
A FEDERAL AGENCY SAID THERE IS
ECONOMIC VALUE WITH THE USE OF
SEED TREATMENTS.
I THINK THERE'S BEEN NUMEROUS
REPORTS OUT THERE THAT SHOW AN
ECONOMIC VALUE TO THEM.
THERE ARE SOME THAT CHALLENGE
THAT.
YOU KNOW, I THINK THAT WAS SOME
OF THE PUSH-BACK WE WERE GIVING
TO GOVERNMENT, SAYING LET'S WORK
TOGETHER TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM,
NOT TRY TO DO IT IN A 6-MONTH
PERIOD BUT TRY TO DO IT IN A
2-YEAR PERIOD SO WE DON'T CAUSE
UNDUE LOSS IN A SITUATION WHERE
WE COULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING
DIFFERENTLY.

Steve says DO YOU THINK THE
GOVERNMENT IS ADEQUATELY
LISTENING TO YOUR OBJECTIONS?

Mark says I THINK THEY
UNDERSTAND WHERE THEY'RE COMING FROM.
I THINK THERE'S ALWAYS THAT DEAL
OF TRYING TO WORK WITH THE
POLITICAL PULL OF WHAT SOCIETY
WANTS TOO, AND I THINK WE HAVE
TO DO MORE WORK AS FARMERS TO
EDUCATE CONSUMERS AND GOVERNMENT
ABOUT THE PRACTICES WE USE ON
OUR FARM AND HOW WE'VE INNOVATED
OVER TIME AND HOW WE ARE FURTHER
INNOVATING, AND THAT, YOU KNOW,
HELP THEM COME ALONG WITH US ON
THE JOURNEY SO THEY UNDERSTAND
THE PROCESS BETTER.

Steve says I DO NOTE -- I'M NOT
ALLEGING ANYTHING HERE -- BUT I
DO NOTE THAT CROP LIFE CANADA,
WHICH IS THE GROUP WE JUST
REFERRED TO IN THAT GLOBE AND
MAIL PIECE, THEIR BOARD INCLUDES
EXECUTIVES FROM TWO COMPANIES,
BEHR AND SYNGENTA, LARGE
PRODUCERS OF NEONICS, AND I
WONDER IF THAT MEANS YOUR
ARGUMENTS ARE SOMEHOW COMPRISED
BECAUSE OF THAT.

Mark says WE'RE INDUSTRY PARTNERS.
I THINK PEOPLE ACCUSE FARMERS OF
BEING THE PAWNS OF THOSE
COMPANIES.
THAT'S THE FARTHEST THING FROM
THE TRUTH.
I'M UNIVERSITY EDUCATED IN
AGRONOMY, CROP SCIENCE.
SOME PEOPLE LIKE TO SAY THAT
FARMERS ARE JUST BEING SUBJECTED
TO THIS USE BECAUSE THE LIFE
SCIENCE COMPANIES ARE MAKING US.
THAT'S FAR FROM THE TRUTH.
I THINK WE WORK TOGETHER.
THAT'S WHY YOU SEE REPORTS
COMMISSIONED LIKE THIS BECAUSE
WE BOTH SEE VALUE IN THE
PRODUCT.
YOU KNOW, SOME OTHER ONES THAT
ARE THIRD PARTY, LIKE THE ONE
FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT,
HELPS VALIDATE SOME OF THE
REPORTS WE FIND THAT ARE THIRD
PARTY BIASED VIEW.

Steve says HOW DO YOU TEST YOUR SOIL?

Mark says HOW DO I TEST MY SOIL?

Steve says YEAH.

Mark says WE HAVE A WHOLE
PROCESS IN PLACE THAT WAS
BROUGHT FORWARD BY THE
GOVERNMENT THROUGH THE ONTARIO
MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FOOD,
AND RURAL AFFAIRS.
WE HAVE A STEP BY STEP PROCEDURE
WE HAVE TO FOLLOW TO MONITOR OUR SOIL.

Steve says IS IT EXPENSIVE?

Mark says WE DID SOME
QUICK MATH ON THE BACK OF A
NAPKIN BASICALLY ONE DAY.
I FIGURE IT'S GOING TO ALIGN
ABOUT 5 dollars PER ACRE IT'S GOING TO
COST ME TO GET A PROFESSIONAL IN
TO DO THESE DIFFERENT TESTS.
THE ISSUE THAT'S TOUGH FOR ME IS
ECONOMICALLY I'M A PRICE TAKER
WITH COMMODITIES.
I CAN'T REALLY SAY, OKAY, I HAVE
A NEW COST IN MY OPERATION.
I'M GOING TO PASS IT ON TO THE
CONSUMER.
I'M SUBJECTED TO THE CHICAGO
BOARD OF TRADE ON THAT PRICE.
SO IT'S HARDER FOR ME TO RECOUP
SOME OF THOSE EXTRA COSTS.

Steve says DOES THE ONTARIO
GOVERNMENT DO ANYTHING TO MAKE
SOIL TESTING MORE AFFORDABLE FOR FARMERS?

Mark says NO, IT'S
SOMETHING WE'RE GOING TO HAVE
TO, I GUESS, GRIN AND BEAR.
THERE ISN'T A MECHANISM IN PLACE
FOR US TO RECAPTURE SOME OF
THOSE COSTS.

Steve says IT'S A REGULATION.
IT'S PART OF THE COST OF DOING
BUSINESS, JUST SUCK IT UP?

Mark says THAT'S WHERE
WE'RE AT RIGHT NOW.

Steve says DOES THE GOVERNMENT
OF ONTARIO OFFER SOME KIND OF
FREE COURSE IN HELPING YOU DO THIS?

Mark says YES, THIS YEAR
WE'RE ACTUALLY OFFERING A
COURSE.
AS A GROWER, IF I WANT TO BUY
NEONICOTINOID TREATED SEED, THIS
YEAR OR FOLLOWING YEARS, I HAVE
TO BE CERTIFIED.
I HAVE TO GO THROUGH A PEST
MANAGEMENT TRAINING COURSE.
WHICH WE HAVE NO ISSUES WITH.
WE THINK IT'S GOOD.
AND THE PROVINCE IS PROVIDING
THAT FREE UP UNTIL SEPTEMBER OF
2016.
THEN AFTER THAT, THERE WILL BE A
FEE FOR THE COURSE.

Steve says LET'S COME FULL
CIRCLE AND FINISH ON THIS.
YOU'RE IN COURT AGAINST THE
GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO.
YOU'RE OBVIOUSLY IN A -- I MEAN,
WHAT DO WE WANT TO CALL IT?
A CAGE MATCH WITH THE BEEKEEPERS
IN SOME RESPECTS WITH HOW YOU'LL
HANDLE THIS NEONICS THING.
HOW IS THIS GOING TO RESOLVE AT
THE END OF THE DAY?

Mark says I THINK TIME
WILL LET IT RESOLVE ITSELF.
THERE ARE COMMERCIAL BEEKEEPERS
OUT THERE THAT WE HAVE SOLID
RELATIONSHIPS IT.
IT ISN'T THE COMBATIVE THING YOU
SEE IN THE MEDIA PER SE.
THERE ARE HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
OUT THERE BETWEEN US.
I THINK WITH GOVERNMENT WE'LL
WORK THROUGH THIS ISSUE AND MOVE
ON TO OTHER THINGS.

Steve says USUALLY A COURT CASE
IS NOT AN INDICATION OF A GOOD
HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH
GOVERNMENT.

Mark says I THINK IT'S
ONE OF THOSE THINGS WHERE IT'S
BEEN REALLY HARD FOR US.
IT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT AS AN
ORGANIZATION WE WANT TO HAVE TO
TAKE ON, BUT PRESSURE FROM
FARMERS AND OUR MEMBERS, IT WAS
SEEN TO BE OUR LAST RESORT AND
THAT'S WHY WE WENT THROUGH WITH
IT AND WE'LL HAVE TO WORK AT OUR
RELATIONSHIP GOING FORWARD WITH
THE GOVERNMENT, BUT, YOU KNOW, I
KNOW FROM MY STANDPOINT, MY DOOR
IS ALWAYS OPEN TO GOVERNMENT TO
HAVE A CONVERSATION.

The caption changes to "Producer: Gregg Thurlbeck, @GreggThurlbeck"

Steve says GOTCHA.
THAT'S MARK BROCK, CHAIR OF THE
GRAIN FARMERS OF ONTARIO.
MARK, THANKS FOR MAKING THE LONG
TREK IN FROM NEAR EXETER,
ONTARIO, TO BE IN OUR STUDIOS.

Mark says THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Watch: Mark Brock: Neonics on Trial