New fertilizer rules may make more products available

The amendments ease rules for low-risk fertilizer while keeping the existing process for high-risk products

Canadian farmers will gain access to a broader array of fertilizer products in a more timely manner as new regulations are implemented, says a senior industry official.

The comment period has closed on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s proposal to modernize Canada’s fertilizers regulations. The amendments should be implemented later this year.

Garth Whyte, president of Fertilizer Canada, said he is “pretty happy” with the result of an eight-year process that will decrease the regulatory burden for the fertilizer industry.

“It’s really good for the industry but it’s also good for growers that need our products rather than being held up in a regulatory process,” he said.

Whyte believes the new regulations will give Canadian farmers access to more innovative fertilizer products than they had before.

“Companies won’t be reticent to introduce products here in Canada. In the past it could be an impediment,” he said.

Many products will also get to market faster than before.

Devin Harlick, a board member with the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan and a farmer from East End, Sask., said anything that paves a path for more innovation is a good thing.

“Hopefully, it creates new products coming on the market and maybe lowers the price from more competition,” he said.

Harlick would like to see new products that are more stable and not prone to things like denitrification.

He would also like to see efficacy regulations on supplements because when he goes to trade shows there are all sorts of claims being made by a wide variety of manufacturers.

The CFIA is revamping the regulations because it says the existing ones are outdated, unfair, do not reflect modern science and are not properly aligned with the risk profile of some fertilizers and supplements.

“This impedes access of Canadian agricultural producers, growers and consumers to safe fertilizers and supplements and results in delays getting product to market,” stated the CFIA in a Dec. 8, 2018, regulatory impact analysis statement.

The proposed amendments boil down to reducing the regulatory burden for low-risk fertilizers and supplements, while keeping the registration process in place for high-risk products or those with unknown risk.

The registration period is also being extended to five years from three years.

The CFIA estimates the new regulations will result in a net savings for industry and government of $950,827 over the next 10 years.

Canada had 271 fertilizer manufacturers as of December 2015. Their products that are regulated by the CFIA include NPK fertilizers, micronutrient fertilizers, plant growth regulators, microbial supplements and waste-derived materials.

The CFIA said that in 2011 more than 59 million acres or 69 percent of Canadian cropland was treated with commercial fertilizers. Another 6.7 million acres received manure.

Farmers spend more on fertilizer products than seeds and pesticides combined, according to the CFIA.

Whyte said the modernization of Canada’s fertilizer regulations hasn’t received much attention but it is an important development for the agriculture sector.

“What seems like a sleepy issue is really fundamental to setting up how our industry is viewed by the CFIA into the future,” he said.

He noted that a CFIA review of regulations in 30 other countries revealed that Canada’s new regulations would be “largely aligned” with most jurisdictions.

But while the regulations have been overhauled, the one-year registration process remains an irritant.

“The length of time it takes still is a lingering annoyance. But that’s an issue of resources,” said Whyte.

“A year is a long time. That can be two planting seasons or even three.”

And the registration process can blossom to two years if there are any omissions or mistakes made in the submission.

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