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ABF Press Release to the Presidential Memorandum
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ABF Press Release to Presidential Memorandum

On behalf of the American Beekeeping Federation, I would like to express our appreciation to President Obama for his recent Presidential Memorandum June 20, 2014, “Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.” It was a privilege to be asked to provide input into the process after our discovery meeting in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 2014. If implemented as written, there may be reason for hope in seeking solutions to our honey bee health issues. After more than seven years of research into the causes of pollinator health decline, the American Beekeeping Federation is encouraged to see a broad surge of interest in solving this problem, including what we deem as necessary intervention by the highest levels of government. As such, we strongly support the President’s FY2015 budget proposal to substantially enhance coordination between the USDA and other Federal agencies, improve reporting and data collection on bee health through the National Agricultural Statistical Service and increasing federal resources dedicated to researching solutions. A concerted “all hands on deck” effort by government, industry and private organizations working together to protect all pollinator species will be needed to stem the current trend of declining bee health, and the budget proposal seeks to harness just that level of effort in its proposed Innovation Institute on pollinator health.

In directing a broad range of agencies to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy with explicit goals and metrics to measure progress, we feel the President's Memorandum offers a pathway for a solution to the problems facing honey bees in the U.S. In our recommendations to the White House, we suggested that this initiative would require involvement by any and all who enjoy a diverse and varied diet, because that is what we have determined is fundamentally at stake. Most of what we eat and what adds rich diversity to American diets are those fruits and vegetables pollinated by honey bees and native pollinators. It is critical that we find answers to the issues that are causing our honey bees to fail to thrive in the manner they once did, ten to fifteen years ago.

The memorandum very correctly addresses our industry's concerns in its action plan and does so in the order of priority and importance that the American Beekeeping Federation outlined to the President. It is our opinion that pesticides are being over used; the Memorandum instructs the EPA to evaluate pesticide use and develop improved methods of crop protection. It is imperative that we find alternatives to the current agricultural practices of utilizing pest prevention as opposed to pest control methodologies. The Memorandum also highlights the need for improvement in pollinator nutrition and seeks to correct the issue of reduced natural forage through increased acreage and forage value of pollinator habitat on Federal land and along our nation's roadways. It is absolutely necessary we find safe areas for bees to utilize season-long forage with a variety of critical food sources. Accordingly, the Memorandum ambitiously directs the Council on Environmental Quality and the General Services Administration to develop plans for utilizing pollinator-friendly practices into site landscape performance requirements. We welcome and applaud this directive. Creating and maintaining high-quality habitats for pollinators is a great step forward in providing much needed habitat improvement. Directing the Department of Transportation and the Army Corps of Engineers to improve the quality of forage along highways and on the 12 million acres supervised by the Army Corps can be a monumental step forward in replacing the many acres lost to row crop expansion from acres previously enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. The need for new treatments for varroa mite and the viruses they vector is also addressed in the President's memorandum and we cannot stress how immediate this need is. Through the complete implementation of this plan as directed by the new Pollinator Health Task Force we believe much is to be gained in addressing the many factors affecting honey bees and all pollinators in the environment.

The American Beekeeping Federation is optimistic and hopeful that this initiative will mark a new beginning and we remain committed to doing everything we can to assist the task force in these efforts. Together we can make this a reality.

Tim Tucker
American Beekeeping Federation

posted June 2014

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