Month: May 2016

Cleavers stand to kill canola industry

On verge of worst year ever for cleavers

Farmers in all canola markets around the world, much the same as Canadian farmers, absolutely do not want pesticide resistant weeds coming into their countries. This news is coming from our contacts in China; where one tells us his contacts in Japan feel the same way. They report that countries like China and Japan are on the watch for unwanted weed species in grains and especially pesticide resistant ones. Our Chinese contacts further tell us pesticide resistant cleavers could, and likely would, shut the border if found in canola imports; they feel the same for Japan. It is our belief and assumption that this likely applies for most countries around the world.

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Farm near Kipling, SK

Farmers from all over Western Canada are telling us this is the worst year they have seen for cleavers, stating comments like “they are not in pockets like usual but are everywhere”. As we know, cleavers, given their size and shape, are difficult to clean out of canola and many are resistant to herbicides especially Group 2 herbicides. When we canvas our contacts in China as to which they feel is a bigger issue, quinclorac MRLs (Maximum Residue Limits) or herbicide resistant cleavers in canola imports, they say without a doubt herbicide resistant cleavers. They also reiterate Gerry Ritz’s words that China has no MRL issues in canola with Canada.

This brings us to question why the grain companies and the Canola Councils seem to take such an unprecedented action against quinclorac residues in looking to eliminate quinclorac? This is especially so when tested levels of quinclorac used last year were below the majority of other established pesticide MRLs registered for use on canola. Given that fact, it is our belief and opinion that the mega – profit driven chemical and grain multinationals want pesticides to go the same way as seed did in the past. The result would be fewer options, eliminating off-patent pesticides for much higher cost replacements that are under-patent. Much like seed, we believe this would take pesticides from $3 to $10 per acre (where they should be) to $40 to $50 per acre. Further, we believe that much of the epidemic spread we are seeing of cleavers is because they are in the canola seed; as farmers report that the first time getting cleavers, they were perfectly in the seed row and showed up in canola before other crops. Was not one of the biggest excuses for eliminating low cost canola seed sources that they may lead to the spread of weeds?

Given the increasingly worst cleaver outbreak ever seen by farmers, we are of the opinion that the high cost recommended methods of cleaver control are not working. Further, we are of the opinion that cleavers, especially the resistant ones we have in Canada, may not only close Chinese borders to canola but possibly Japan’s boarders and the rest of the world, essentially killing the canola industry as we know it in Canada.

Notice to growers with Cleaver issues in Canola*

It has been brought to our attention that someone should be estimating damages on behalf of growers for the actions of canola handlers in not handling quinclorac treated canola.

Request

Please document estimated costs associated with:

  • Yield loss and grade loss due to cleavers if you did not use quinclorac in your canola
  • Opportunity loss if you did use quinclorac in your canola and it was refused by canola handlers
  • Additional herbicide cost to control cleavers if not using quinclorac
  • Any additional costs or hardships
  • Please document any handlers communications (written or word of mouth) influencing you not to use quinclorac and any handlers refusing to handle quinclorac sprayed canola

Reason

It is estimated that cleavers in canola can cost growers in excess of 300 million per year due to yield loss and increased pesticide costs.  The canola handling industry, directly and through associations they influence, wields substantial control and we feel that they have essentially monopolized access to canola markets, where we believe that their actions greatly affect the livelihoods of growers.  In particular many statements have been made publically regarding quinclorac by the canola handling industry to justify their actions.  Examples include but are not limited to: quinclorac on canola has a higher risk profile then all other pesticides handled; and that the industry segregated out the canola from the 2015 crop to ensure it did not make its way into the largest canola markets of Japan and China.  The industry has implied through a number of open ended statements that quinclorac is higher risk without ever providing proof that these statements do not apply to other pesticides. With such statements, we feel that the industry implies that all pesticides handled have met a risk threshold that only quinclorac exceeds.  These statements and many more that have been used to single out quinclorac, and its use only on canola, have in no way been substantiated by third party to justify their actions against growers and its associated costs.  Through growers’ assistance, the costs to growers can be substantiated to see if it merits legal action.

* GNG’s role at this time is simply to pass on this notice to growers.  The views expressed are solely the author’s and the above information is for informational and interest purposes only.  The author does not intend to represent the interests of the reader in any manner, and should the reader elect to participate in the request stated above, the reader does so voluntarily without any request or expectation of compensation from the author.  The author shall not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

Here we go again

We have come to observe, and have reason to believe, that the Canadian Canola Council (the “CCC”) and the multinational corporations are working hard to take crop protection the way they took seed supply years ago by eliminating producer options. It is our belief that these actions have the ability to trigger massive increases in input costs, which we believe would result in farmers in other nations having an even greater competitive advantage than they already enjoy because of their looser patent laws.

Farmers who have been around for a while may remember that canola was once a low cost seed (less than a dollar an acre). Unfortunately, today prices over $50 per acre are commonplace and are still rising.  We feel that this is because one key supplier is gone: the farmer himself or herself.

At the same time, we have observed big companies lobbying for more legislation to make farmers criminals if they have the temerity to use their own seed or seek lower cost alternatives. In our opinion, the CCC collects and then spends farmers’ check off dollars in ways designed to convince those same growers that what the CCC is doing is good for them. Meanwhile they merrily lobby government to put rules in place that benefit the multi-nationals, all the while crowing that they are ‘the voice of farmers.’

 

Here we go again from seed to crop protection.

To us, it appears that the CCC and multinationals are manufacturing a new issue to mask their real agenda, through a classic sleight of hand exercise to extract additional profits from farmer-producers: This is done by relying on MRLs or Maximum Residue Levels.

Our understanding of the situation is as follows:  The CCC claims that Canada’s reputation and access to global markets is at risk, where to us, it seems that these self-proclaimed saviors of producers have no choice but to don their capes and masks as superheroes dedicated to protecting the little guy: the farmer. China, they claim, MAY reject a shipment of Canadian canola if we allow the use of a generic active called Quinclorac, contained in the product Clever.

Well, we feel there’s no evidence to support the claim, though we can see how it sounds just scary enough to raise concerns.

So here are some facts: China, the manufacturer and world’s biggest user of Quinclorac, has never made such a claim. Even former Ag Minister Gerry Ritz, fresh from a trade mission to China and discussions on the topic with China, reported, “They had no issues with MRLs from Canada.  The truth is that 48 of 53 products registered for use in Canada don’t have sufficient MRLs in China.”

So, what’s really going on here?

In our opinion, the easiest way to figure it out can be described as such: Follow the Money.  We feel that Ritz put it best when responding to questions on why low cost alternatives were being attacked, where Ritz was adamant that this was not about trade rules or science.  In short, we feel that Mr. Ritz, without outright saying so, is suggesting the big guys have flat out created a process to block this properly licenced, lower-cost alternative for farmers.

I suppose the question then is why would the CCC or multinationals do that? We think the answer is simple:  To keep low-cost alternatives from competing with their high priced options, much like they did with seed in the last assault on producers’ expense line and competitiveness.

Upon review, we feel that this is achieved through a simple two-step process. As we see it, the process is as follows:

  1. First, create a crisis – real or unreal.
  2. Second, push for legislative changes to reduce competition or alternatives for farmers, making it illegal for producers to seek their own options.

We believe that this same approach was used with seed.  Now they are moving to the next line on the farm financial statement – inputs.

Make no mistake, we believe MRLs in the case of quinclorac are a red herring. In our opinion, it is an issue generated in Canada and Canada alone by the industry and its mouthpiece, the CCC.  China has said nothing to target quinclorac over the other 48 actives without sufficient MRLs.

To us, it appears as though multinationals have managed to coerce the CCC into helping them manufacture a phony crisis with their rhetoric. Even more elegant from their perspective is that the CCC is funding this activity with farmers’ own check-off dollars.

We base our opinions in part on history:  Remember the perceived crisis of weed seeds spreading if a farmer used his or her own seed?  We believe that was a handy little crisis, again championed by the CCC, leading to the control of the seed market and massive price increases.

Now back to Quinclorac.

Many growers are finding increased incidence of cleavers in their fields, a new threat many hadn’t seen before. The CCC appears to us to understate the cleaver problem (in part relying on 2008 data helps make that argument). Yet, while we have found no record of China rejecting a shipment of canola because of MRLs, it has been clear it has issues with dockage (wasn’t that supposed to be mitigated with strict seed rules?).

Given the increased incidence of cleavers, today’s reality dictates that controlling cleavers has never been more critical, especially given the fact that they are difficult to remove in the cleaning process, where, in our opinion, dockage is the bigger problem. In our view, the CCC seems to think so too –after all, they’ve recommended that farmers pass on the cheaper generic and adopt a multi-product program further benefiting the multinationals, as is more expensive, and puts more chemical on the.  Environmental stewardship of the first order. Thank you, voice of the farmer.

Unfortunately, we feel that this is only the first leg of the race to ensure a protected market for crop protection suppliers. This story gets more unsettling—more on that in our next blog.

I had a farmer from the Wilkie area call into the GNG office today to tell me we should be advising farmers to do what he did in requesting his volunteer canola check-off back.  The farmer noted the process was more difficult than other check-offs that he maintains as he sees some value in them.  Unlike other check-offs he could not simply go online and grab the form needed; he had to call in and provide mailing information in order to have a form mailed to him.  This was followed up with a question of why, in which he simply said that this quinclorac and seed cost issues make it clear to him his checkoff is not working for him.  The farmer indicated buying a drink with it would serve him better.

GNG believes together with farmers’ support that it will greatly reduce farmers’ risks in growing a crop by significantly reducing input costs and increasing farmers’ profits many fold.