By Linda Harper, The Honeybee Conservancy
March 25, 2014
A drop in the bucket I say. On February 25, 2014, the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide close to $3 million in technical and financial assistance for interested farmers and ranchers to help improve the health of bees, which play an important role in crop production. The funding is a focused investment to improve pollinator health and will be targeted in five mid-western states; Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Honey bee pollination supports an estimated $15 billion worth of agricultural production, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables that are the foundation of a nutritious diet. The future security of America’s food supply depends on healthy honey bees. Expanded support for research, combined with USDA’s other efforts to improve honey bee health, should help beekeepers combat the current, unprecedented loss of honey bee hives each year.
Funding will be provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to promote conservation practices that will provide honey bees with nutritious pollen and nectar while providing benefits to the environment. Recent studies have shown that beekeepers are losing approximately 30 percent of their honey bee colonies each year, up from historical norms of ten to fifteen percent prior to 2006.
This money will provide guidance and support to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. Appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management may provide a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators.
The mid-western states were chosen because from June to September the region is the resting ground for over 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter.
All this is true but restrictions should be stretched to include poison usage and shipping restrictions. Currently these have been side-stepped to appease a growing resistance to manage bees in a safe and responsible way. If commercial beekeepers are still allowed to exploit honey in return for feeding sugar, these problems aren’t going away. And what about the $3M compared to the $15 billion in return. Sounds like money thrown to the wind…counseling and guidance? I’m sure many farmers know how to read seed sacks. What’s needed now is a bit of tough love. When beekeepers wear masks and gloves to treat bees…well a three year old would know something’s up.
Did you get the undertone of all this? Words like “it may”. Big words in the beekeeping industry. If farmers fed sugar and treated their livestock with chemicals and sugar, the FDA wouldn’t allow the meat or milk to be sold! In retrospect, they’re doing the same thing to us. Our food in genetically altered, and all the hype ads tell us how good it is for us. I’m so mad over this (once again) funny money. All this $3M is going for is to fatten an already fat government agency, the NRCS; who else is going to do the “counselling” for farmers who MAY be interested in improving honey bee forage?