Friday, December 19, 2008
New Brunswick pesticide policy coming in spring
New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
Pesticide policy coming in spring
FREDERICTON - The Liberal government says it will unveil itspesticides policy this spring. The policy will be partly shaped by areport tabled in the legislature by Environment Minister Roland Hache.The Nigadoo-Chaleur MLA presented a summary of recent consultations oncosmetic pesticides, like those used in lawn care and landscaping.Consultations were held during the summer and fall, and focusedlargely on how government should regulate, or even prohibit, the useof pesticides.
New Brunswick - Summary of Public Consultation (Dec 18, 2008)
Be informedLawn Care and Landscape Pesticide UsePDF
Friday December 19th, 2008
Saint John Telegraph-Journal
Towns, cities report shelved
by Benjamin Shingler
FREDERICTON - For the second time in as many days, Premier ShawnGraham backed down from major reforms recommended in an extensive andcostly report his government commissioned.
The final report on local governance by commissioner Jean-Guy Finntook a year to complete, totals more than 350 pages, and had a budgetof $424,000. It suggested the province's current system of localgovernance is badly out of date and requires wholesale changes.
But Premier Shawn Graham, who a year ago promised the report wouldlead to the "most significant shakeup" on local governance in 40years, said Thursday the reforms would be put on hold indefinitely.
Graham told reporters it would be a mistake to implement the changes,given the current economic downturn."We felt at this point in time,because of the economic situation, and the priority being the economyand putting New Brunswickers to work, that we had enough on ourplate," he said.
Finn said the reforms would cost the provincial government anestimated $88 million annually as a reduction in services offered bythe province would not completely offset by the larger share of taxrevenue that would go to municipalities.
The report's controversial reforms include cutting the number ofmunicipalities and rural local district services - through forcedmergers - from more than 350 down to 53; creating 12 regional servicedistricts designed to streamline services such as policing, wastemanagement and economic development; and tax reforms that would leadto rate hikes for rural New Brunswickers living in local servicedistricts.
Finn said the reforms should be implemented as soon as possible, giventhe major spending expected on infrastructure over the next year togenerate economic growth.
He said the current system leads to overlapping funding for someservices and projects, and inadequate funding in others.
"If there is no action taken now, and the province and the federalgovernment bring in a stimulus package and good part of it is forinfrastructure, then we risk doing a lot of inefficient spending," hesaid.
Finn used as an example the Campbellton civic centre, which was builtwith the assistance of the federal and provincial governments, but hasstruggled to stay open because the municipal government can't affordto pay for its upkeep.
Finn also said the government should avoid "picking and choosing"among the recommendations in the report.
"The danger here, with that, is it would a make a not very goodsituation even worse," he said.
Jean-Paul Savoie, the president of l'Association des municipalités duNouveau-Brunswick, which represents 50 municipalities in the province,said he was encouraged by the report and wanted the government to takeimmediate action to set up the regional service districts.
Savoie said other changes, such as the mergers and the tax reformsthat would lead to higher rates, require further consultation.
Overall, though, Savoie said the reforms would give residents in localservice districts access to improved services and a vote in municipalelections.
"We need strong local government in New Brunswick," said Savoie, whoalso serves as mayor of Kedgwick. "It's not acceptable that about onethird of our population doesn't have the right to vote in municipalelections."
For now, though, Graham made it clear his government wouldn'tintroduce any of the recommended changes.
Opposition leader David Alward suggested a pattern of inaction wasdeveloping with the Liberal government.
On Wednesday, the Liberals backed away from any major changes to theprovince's tax structure, abandoning long-standing plans to raise theHarmonized Sales Tax.
"It's the same old news," Alward said. "If we look at what's takenplace with previous work whether it was French second language, post-secondary education, this week the taxation report, and today the Finnreport."
"This government talks transformational change, but they don't act,and when they've tried to act they end up going backwards."
Alward said there some good ideas in the report, but that the notionof forcing municipalities to merge wasn't one of them.
"I have serious questions on not making it voluntary," he said.
EU draws closer to finalizing new pesticides lawThu Dec 18, 2008 3:10pm GMT
By Jeremy Smith
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Parliament negotiators have struck apolitical deal with EU countries about revising pesticideauthorization rules that would reduce the number of crop chemicals onthe market, officials said on Thursday.
The changes, to be debated by the full parliament in January and againby EU farm ministers after that, would replace a 1991 law and letgroups of countries with similar geography and climate decide whetherfarmers may use specific products.
But politically, a broad consensus had now been reached that shouldsmooth the way for a final deal to be rubber stamped, probably in thefirst few months of 2009, officials said.
"This agreement is a milestone for the environment, health andconsumer protection in Europe. The EU will set a global precedent byphasing out highly toxic pesticides," German Green MEP Hiltrud Breyer,who is steering the draft pesticides law through Parliament, said in astatement. A list of EU-approved "active substances" will be drawn up,with certain highly toxic chemicals to be banned unless their effectcan be shown to be negligible.
If a substance is needed to combat a serious danger to plant health,it can be approved for up to five years even if it does not meet allsafety criteria. Products containing hazardous substances will bereplaced within three years if safer alternatives are shown to exist.
Pesticides that are currently approved for sale will remain availableuntil authorization expires so there should be no sudden large-scalewithdrawal of products from the market.
EU states will be able to authorize pesticides either at a nationallevel or through mutual recognition, with countries to be divided intothree zones -- north, center and south -- so pesticides can beapproved for a region rather than a country. At present, approvalsapply only for individual countries.
Crucially, individual EU countries will be allowed to ban a product,for example because of specific environmental or agriculturalcircumstances.
Aerial crop-spraying will mostly be banned, with strict conditionsplaced on pesticide use near aquatic environments and drinking watersupplies.
The changes agreed so far will make EU rules primarily a hazard-based,not risk-based, approach. That has annoyed Europe's pesticidesindustry, which says the new law will remove products from the marketthat have been used safely for years.
Many EU scientists, for example -- backed by countries like Britain --are fighting hard against this approach and say fewer availablepesticides will lead to resistance problems since pests that areregularly treated with a single product type -- not a range ofproducts -- will inevitably develop tolerance.
This would damage agricultural productivity and make farming ofcertain crops in Europe uncompetitive, such as wheat and barley,cotton, potatoes and a range of fruits and vegetables, since yieldswould be reduced.
(Editing by Sue Thomas)
=======================Warning Industry Propaganda Below=======================
18 Dec 2008
Government attempts to overturn pesticides rulingA landmark High Court ruling, that found pesticides are harming ruralcommunities, could be overturned by the Government on the grounds thatproposals to control use of chemicals could cripple the farmingindustry.
By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
Last month environment campaigner Georgina Downs managed to prove thatresidents across the UK have suffered harm to their heath from cropspraying close to their homes.
The High Court ruled that the Government failed to comply with aEuropean Directive to protect people from the possible harmful effectsof exposure to toxic chemicals.
But the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs claimthat it is impossible to rule out all "possible harmful effects".Instead ministers are proposing stricter controls on use of chemicals.
A spokesman said: "This decision would make it impossible to authorisepesticides governed by the [European] Directive for use in the UK,which would have a very serious impact on farming and food productionand would put the UK out of line with the rest of Europe. Defra willbe asking the Court of Appeal to overturn this ruling. The protectionof the health of those who live, work or visit the countryside remainsour highest priority. We will want to look again at the advantages anddisadvantages of additional measures, irrespective of the outcome ofthe case."
Ms Downs, 35, who has been named as a British Erin Brockovich, saidthe decision was "completely irresponsible".
She said: "The Government's decision to appeal this ruling continuesto demonstrate the Government's absolute contempt for rural residentsand communities and is a disgrace. Heads should be rolling, followingsuch a landmark High Court Judgment, but instead it's business asusual with the Government's relentless attempts to protect theindustry as opposed to the health of its citizens abundantly clear."
Ms Downs, 35, who suffered from pesticide poisoning as a child and nowruns the UK Pesticides Campaign, fought for seven years to provepesticides can cause health problems from rashes and sore throats to"chronic" illnesses including cancers, asthma and neurologicalconditions.
"The Government's decision to appeal against the High Court ruling isjust adding insult to injury to all those residents whose health andlives have been affected as a result of the Government's flawed andunlawful policy and the sheer arrogance of it all is beyond belief,"she added.
BASF's pesticides unit defies economic crisis: executiveThu Dec 18, 2008 2:12pm GMT
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By Ludwig Burger and Frank Siebelt
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - BASF's (BASF.DE: Quote, Profile, Research)pesticides business is set to defy the global economic downturn,unlike the German chemical giant's other businesses, as the globalfarming industry continues to grow, a top executive told Reuters.
"From what we can see at the moment global agricultural production isnot in a crisis situation like the car or the electronics industry,"Stefan Marcinowski, in charge of the group's crop protection business,said in an interview.
The division, which accounted for about a tenth of the company'soperating income in the first nine months, is set to reach its goalfor earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization(EBITDA) of 25 percent of sales in 2008 and will be given the samemargin goal next year, he added.
The margin stood at 29.4 percent in the first nine months. Onlyextreme weather conditions and excessive currency swings would justifycutting the target, the executive said.
The business had sales of about 2.74 billion euros ($3.94 billion) inthe first three quarters of the year.
Prices for diesel fuel and fertilizers, among the main cost drivers inagricultural production, have tracked the decline in crude oil, whichis the main input factor for both.
This was proving to be a boon for farmers who have seen prices fortheir produce decline, Marcinowski said, adding that despite therecent drop, most crops were still trading above last year's level.
The financial crisis prompted many investors, who had previously takenout debt to rush into agricultural commodities, to sell as they triedto deleverage. The farming industry, previously buoyed by surging foodand biofuel demand, has seen grain and other soft commodities pricesfall.
"The hype is over for now," Marcinowski commented.
Still, demand for agricultural biomass -- either to eat, to feed tolivestock or to burn as fuel -- continued to rise in the long term.
Persistently low inventories for crops such as soy and corn alsopointed to further pent-up demand for crops in the medium term, headded.
The upbeat assessment for the BASF unit -- the world's third-largestmaker of conventional crop chemicals after German rival Bayer(BAYG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) and Switzerland's Syngenta(SYNN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research) -- contrasts with the gloomyoutlook for the company's main businesses of industrial chemicals andplastics.
BASF cut its 2008 profit outlook for the second time in two months inNovember and unveiled plans to cut back production, citing a massivedecline in demand from key customers such as carmakers and builders.
The world's largest chemicals maker said at the time it wouldtemporarily shut down 80 plants worldwide and reduce production atabout 100 plants.
The pesticides unit, meanwhile, plans to lift prices for some productsnext year because current plants are almost fully utilized and outputcapacity will not be significantly upgraded until 2010.
"We have reached capacity limits for our most important fungicides andinsecticides," Marcinowski said.
In the long term, the $40 billion global pesticides industry would bekey to lifting farmers' productivity, which was in need of a boost,the executive said.
Productivity growth rates in the industry have been at about 1.8percent annually while food and biofuel demand looked set to increaseat twice that rate due to population growth and rising meatconsumption in emerging markets.
Only more crop protection chemicals and genetically modified seedscould bridge the gap because additional farm land is growing scarceand there is little extra yield in increasing fertilizer use, theexecutive said.
BASF's crop protection business, which commands the highest researchand development expenses among BASF's units, would focus on growing onits own, Marcinowski said, but added that acquisitions of companies orlicenses for active ingredients to complement its offering remain onthe cards.
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