Feds stick it to agriculture again

Spring is in the air! A Richardson Grounds Squirrel, commonly identified as the classic prairie dog/gopher was spotted east of Irma near Fayban on Wed. March 25, 2020. This furry animal is one of 21 species of ground squirrels found in North America, all of which live in and on the ground. Image courtesy of Desirée Braconnier

Is it political or an attitude problem or both?

Last month saw a couple of actions by the federal government that shows that they don’t care much what the industry thinks or needs. 

Faceless bureaucrats disconnected from agriculture make decisions that are more influenced by politically correct urban perspectives than reality in the countryside. 

The first was the federal Agriculture  Minister’s decision that the carbon tax on natural gas for grain drying and irrigation would stay in place despite the financial hardship it created during the “harvest from hell” across the prairies. 

Your humble columnist predicted this would happen despite a massive effort by producers and their organizations to try and sway the Ag Minister with facts, fairness and common sense. 

None of that was going to make any difference because it would have meant that federal bureaucrats and government politicians would have had to admit a mistake was made – that’s just not done. 

The minister indicated from the start that no change was going to be made by arrogantly stating that she had not seen any proof of financial hardship. 

Despite producers showing real documentation to the contrary, the decision had been made and no facts were going to change her position. 

Her officials made up the excuse that drying costs on average are only one per cent of production costs and that it was variable depending on weather conditions. 

It should be noted that in reality it wasn’t really the Ag minister’s responsibility to make the change as the carbon tax legislation belongs to the Minister of the Environment. 

Clearly disdainful bureaucrats in that department had no intention of making any new precedent-setting exemption for anybody on carbon taxes. 

No mere Agriculture Minister was going to change that politically correct position. Besides producers had already been exempted for gas and diesel costs when the legislation was implemented. 

Deregulate Strychnine

The latest federal government bludgeon at the Ag industry was the decision by the Federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) to deregulate liquid strychnine to control Richardson’s ground squirrel better known as gophers. 

That pest causes millions of dollars in losses to crops and pasture land. The only effective way to control it is through poisoning. 

The PMRA stated back in 2018 that they were going to ban the product due to its alleged impact on the environment. 

Their evidence was more anecdotal than scientific, but the PMRA has a long memory. They managed to ban it in 1992 only to have it re-instated in 2001, that would have been seen as a challenge to their authority. 

Poisoning anything is seen as anti-ethical to those with a green-at-all-costs perspective – clearly some federal bureaucrats share that philosophy. 

It should be noted that the PMRA falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Ministry of Health, a department with a less than favourable view of commercial agriculture – their obstructionism is becoming notorious. 

Need I mention their role in denigrating beef and dairy products in the new Canada Food Guide in favour of climate action. 

Those affected by the PMRA decision have 60 days to file their objections – but any protests are futile as PMRA bureaucrats have already made the decision. 

They are keenly aware of their regulatory power and only a very strong minister would challenge their authority. 

Can you imagine a Liberal minister of health from an urban-based party reversing a ban on poisoning those darling cute gophers so adored by city voters. I know miracles do happen but that’s the only hope in this matter. 

I also cite another example as to federal government intransigence once it makes a decision. 

Recently the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced new livestock transportation regulations that were more based on popular consensus than science and practical experience. 

Despite all pleadings to wait for science developed by Ag Canada the CFIA barged ahead confident that their decision will be upheld by their minister – which you guessed it – happens to be the minister of health and not agriculture. 

I suggest that an anti-commercial agriculture bias exists in the federal department of health evidenced by the aforementioned matters and decisions. 

The federal agriculture department may do their best to mitigate these decisions due to their impact on the Ag industry but I expect that the status and power of that department in cabinet pales in comparison to the environment and health departments. 

The latter two have particular relevance to the Liberal party voting base in urban centres in eastern Canada. Cynical perhaps but political reality. 

Will Verboven is an Ag opinion writer and Ag policy consultant. 

Cancellation of Strychnine sales

• Health Canada is cancelling the registration of strychnine, used to control Richardson’s ground squirrels (gopher) for sale and use in Canada. Strychnine will be phased out following this timeline.

Strychnine sales by manufacturer are prohibited after March 4, 2021.

• Strychnine sales by retailer are prohibited after March 4, 2022. 

•Strychnine possession and use by end-user is prohibited after March 4, 2023.

History

History as recorded in the Spondin history book, titled, Prairie Rose Country

• Bubonic plague, the dreaded Black Death of the Middle Ages, is also known as Sylvatic plague. It can be transmitted to humans by the fleas which live on rats and can be contracted by handling infected animals. Symptoms of the disease are chills, fever, and swelling of the lymphatic glands the fatality rate is high. 

It is assumed that infected rats came ashore from ships calling at west coast ports, that birds probably carried the germs to eastern Alberta, and that the native Richardson Ground Squirrel, more commonly called gophers, became host to the infection. 

In the spring of 1940, a gopher extermination project was started. The project was financed by the Federal government; the Provincial government was responsible for carrying out the work.

One farmer reported that before the extermination program started, he had put out poison on a rod headland after lunch. When he returned in the evening, he counted more than one hundred dead gophers.

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