The Alberta and Saskatchewan governments are urging a federal pest agency to lift new restrictions on the use of a common pesticide.
The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) recently changed approved uses for lambda-cyhalothrin, an effective pesticide that many farmers rely on to control grasshoppers and flea beetles.
Among other changes, the pesticide can no longer be used for any crop that may end up as livestock feed. As a result, its manufacturers have pulled their products from Western Canada.
Due to a continued drought in some parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan, grasshoppers are again likely to be a concern in the 2023 growing season, and the PMRA’s decision leaves farmers with one less tool to address potentially destructive pests, says Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation.
It could also prevent canola producers from selling their products as livestock feed, which could feed supplies for cattle and lamb producers. The move could also have an impact on food production in a time of worldwide food insecurity.
Representatives for Alberta and Saskatchewan canola producers said the decision could have a big impact on farmers in both provinces.
“With extreme flea beetle pressure, hot spots for grasshoppers and cutworms across the Prairies and forecasted outbreaks, the lambda-cyhalothrin decision could severely impact our yields, our livelihoods, feedstocks and food prices,” said Alberta Canola chair Roger Chevraux and SaskCanola chair Keith Fournier in a joint statement on Friday.
“Lambda-cyhalothrin has a significant market share, and it will strain farmers to source alternative products. The PMRA needs to base its decisions on sound science and be aligned with our largest trading partner.”
Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation Minister Nate Horner said the decision could hurt farmers just bouncing back from a couple of difficult years.
“I urge the federal ministers and the PMRA to reconsider their decision and make it easier, not harder, for Alberta’s farmers to feed people in Canada and across the world.”
Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit echoed Horner’s fears that the regulation changes could hurt producers.
“Without access to effective insecticides, Saskatchewan producers are at risk of being placed at a competitive disadvantage and will be facing significant losses,” says Marit in a statement. “Saskatchewan supports industry’s calls for an extension to the lambda-cyhalothrin re-evaluation decision to alleviate pressure on producers and help ensure a stable supply of feed for livestock.”
In 2019, the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency removed restrictions on lambda-cyhalothrin’s use. The PMRA made the opposite decision, which has led to confusion about what will be done about livestock feed coming from Alberta’s largest trading partner.
Horner and Marit have written to the ministers of Health Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, outlining producers’ concerns and urging them to encourage the PMRA to reconsider its decision.
To ensure western farmers have an effective solution for the coming growing season, the PMRA would need to enact an emergency reinstatement, which would also give the agency time to make a more informed decision.