There have been some alarming photos shared across social media platforms of dead fish in the English River in recent weeks. There have also been several discussions accompanying these images on possible causes, with some unfortunate fingers pointing at the agricultural community.
Pesticide use is an important reality for producers throughout the Valley, where the successful harvest of conventional crops depends on a certain application of chemicals to reduce pest pressure. It is not an ideal situation, and many of our farmers are working diligently to reduce their pesticide use or to seek alternatives or more earth-friendly solutions.
The tendency to hold farmers to account for their environmental impact is largely unfair when we demand the highest quality food at the lowest possible price, and when so much of everyday life escapes the same kind of scrutiny. For example, the collective impact of travel to vacation destinations this summer likely dwarfs the environmental footprint of farmers over the same period, but this is very easy to ignore.
Something else we tend to overlook is the casual use of pesticides taking place in our own backyards across the Valley. The municipality of Ormstown has moved to address this issue and has done so in a way that is not aimed at shaming or negatively impacting its producers. The new bylaw regulating the use of pesticides within the village is, as Mayor Christine McAleer suggests, a step in the right direction, both for the environment and for harmonious coexistence with farmers.
The fact the municipality was not only open to meeting with the UPA, but that its representatives listened and then adapted the content of the bylaw according to comments made by administrators of the local syndicate, demonstrates a level of respect for farmers and the importance of their work that is relatively rare.
The reflex to work in partnership with the UPA should be commonplace at the municipal level of politics. One would think an openness to dialogue with different community groups and organizations would almost always lead to better and more inclusive legislation. This also highlights the crucial role citizens play in shaping municipal regulations.