With their livelihood in the ground, farmers in Newfoundland and Labrador need to get the most out of their crops, both through abundance and quality.
And it’s not only the fertility of the soil and a favourable growing season that helps accomplish that.
Pests have to be controlled to reduce crop damage. Farming methods such as crop rotation help in this regard, but pesticides are often needed to get better results.
And while pesticides kill insects, having leftover, unwanted and outdated substances on a farm can also be a potential health hazard to people, and to the environment if disposed of in an improper way.
“You have to be careful around pesticides. You don’t want it on your hands or on your skin,” said Eugene Legge, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture (NLFA). “Years ago some people drained it into the ground, and you know what that can do to the environment or water sources.
“Some kept it for a long time. We’ve had this story of a farmer having some of this kicking around for 20 years in storage, in a shed. Another story of a guy who had an old pickup on his property that he stored it in.”
Stories like these are why the NLFA teamed up with CleanFARMS — a national, industry-led agricultural waste stewardship organization — and the Department of Environment and Conservation, to deliver a program to farmers in the province that would allow them to properly dispose of obsolete pesticides.
According to the Department of Environment and Conservation, collection sites for the 2013 provincial Obsolete Pesticide Collection Program were located in November at Foxtrap, where 442 kilograms were collected, at Lewisporte, where 560 kilograms were collected, and at Steel Mountain on the province’s west coast where 160 kilograms were collected. That’s a total of 1,162 kilograms of obsolete or unwanted pesticides collected in 2013.
The program takes place every three years at no cost to farmers. CleanFARMS, which is responsible for procuring and paying the cost of hiring the contractor to collect the pesticides, works with Environment and Conservation to pack the pesticides for storage and shipping for final disposal. Collected pesticides are taken to a licensed waste management facility where they are disposed of through high-temperature incineration.
Between collection years, farmers are asked to safely store unwanted pesticides.
Barry Friesen, general manager of CleanFARMS, notes that since the program launched in 1998, more than 1.9 million kilograms of obsolete pesticides have been collected across Canada — including over 4,880 kilograms in this province.
“The success of this collection just reaffirms the commitment of Newfoundland farmers to environmental responsibility,” Friesen said.
“This improves their operations and allows them to grow safe food for Canadians.”
Commercial and restricted-class pesticides are eligible for collection, which includes insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and rodenticides — in either solid or liquid form.
The program is open to all farmers, licensed pesticide operators, commercial pesticide vendors and anyone who had commercial or restricted-class pesticides that they no longer wanted, or were no longer registered for use in Canada.
Francine Charbonneau, media relations officer with CleanFARMS, said pesticides are registered by the federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency.
“(Pesticides) that can be no longer usable for various reasons such as the product is too old, the grower switched crops, product was replaced by another or the product registration was withdrawn … we deem this as the product has now become obsolete,” Charbonneau said in an email.
“All obsolete products returned during the collection process are safely packed in leak-proof containers, transported by a licenced and insured hazardous waste hauler to an Environment Canada approved waste management facility.”
The NLFA represents farmers and farmer groups in the province, and shares information with the aim of improving the industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Legge said that working with CleanFARMS shows the commitment that farmers have to the environment.
“Farmers in Newfoundland and Labrador are happy to participate in this program because it is a win-win, being good for the environment and for their operations,” Legge said.