WHEREAS Fusarium head blight (Fusarium graminearum) is declared a pest under the Agricultural Pests Act; and
WHEREAS the presence of Fusarium graminearum has increased throughout the province in recent years; and
WHEREAS the economic impacts as a result of infestations can affect crop yields, crop grades and risk the health of livestock through contaminated feed resulting in significant economic losses for crop producers and the agriculture industry in Alberta; and
WHEREAS time is needed for plant breeders and seed treatment companies to come up with new fusarium resistant varieties and improved, mandatory testing to offset the spread of Fusarium graminearum; and
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to continue support for zero percent tolerance for Fusarium graminearum, and maintain that it remain a pest as currently declared in the Agricultural Pests Act; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Alberta protect the agriculture industry in Alberta by supporting mandatory testing for Fusarium graminearum prior to grains entering any seed cleaning plant or mobile cleaning unit to prevent spreading of the disease.
Fusarium head blight (Fusarium graminearum) is declared a pest under the Agricultural Pests Act and can cause serious fungal disease of cereal grains (wheat, barley, oats), grasses and corn. The risk of infestations has significant economic impact for crop producers and the agriculture industry in Alberta. Though F. graminearum has been present at low levels since the late 1980s, there have been increasing incidents in southern Alberta in recent years.
In 2011, the Fusarium Action Committee (FAC), a provincial advisory group consisting of multiple stakeholders, submitted recommendations to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development on how to manage F. graminearum in Alberta. The AAMDC has representation on the FAC and though there were a number of recommendations that were supported by rural municipalities, the FAC could not reach consensus on the recommendation to improve regulatory tools. Specifically, this recommendation indicated that certain sections of the province be exempted from the Act to allow 0.5% of infected seed in areas that currently have a high incidence of disease. Allowing this exemption threatens the health of crops across the province and encourages a continued move towards higher tolerance levels, which will negatively impact Alberta’s agriculture industry.
In addition, the FAC has proposed amendments to the Agricultural Pests Act which include having three pest categories (Prohibited Pest, Pest and Nuisance) and implementing changes that would allow municipalities the ability to create bylaws to upgrade species to different categories (i.e. from pest to prohibited pest). This change would mean municipalities that are already infected could use education and awareness tools to prevent the spread (like a noxious weed) but still have the ability to issue notices against it as needed. However, municipalities where F. graminearum is not currently an issue would have the ability to upgrade the status from pest to a prohibited pest which would mean notices would have to be issued and the pest eradicated (like prohibited noxious weeds). This would create a discrepancy in the acceptance of the pest across municipalities making managing it more difficult.
In 2012, the FAC revised the Alberta Fusarium graminearum Management Plan which includes the intent to limit the introduction, escalation, spread and economic impact of F. graminearium in the province. The Plan outlines the responsibilities of various stakeholders, such as Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Agricultural Service Boards, landowners or occupants and processors are outlined regarding plan development, implementation, monitoring and enforcement. The municipal authority is responsible for the enforcement of pest control measures and control measures outlined in the management plan represent guidelines intended to assist producers and municipalities to comply with the Act.
Previous resolutions on this issue have been presented at the Provincial Agricultural Services Board (ASB). Since 2000, ASBs have passed resolutions that have included requesting monitoring and awareness programs, funding to assist producers to test seed, funding for a special pest control program for F. graminearum control and that all seed entering into seed cleaning plants be tested for it and be confirmed F. graminearum free prior to being accepted for cleaning.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions related to this issue.