Thursday, May 14, 2015

Lawmakers call attention to USDA and EPA's lack of communication about bee health

Rep. Rodney Davis, chairman of the House Agriculture subcommittee on biotechnology, horticulture and research said lawmakers are uneasy about the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency's lack of communication about bee health, Sarah Gonzalez writes for Agri-Pulse.

Losses of honey bee colonies were 23.1 percent for the 2014-2015 winter, and for the first time ever, summer losses were higher than winter losses, according to the USDA's survey conducted along with the Bee Informed Partnership and the Apiary Inspectors of America, Conzalez reports.

"We see a disagreement between agencies that are supposed to be working together," Davis said at a subcommittee hearing about honey bee health to the hearing's two witnesses: Jim Jones, assistant administrator at the EPA's office of Safety and Pollution Prevention, and Robert Johansson, USDA's acting chief economist.

One concern is how long it is taking to produce a federal strategy to protect honey bees. Five months ago, a White House Task Force on Pollinator Health, chaired by EPA and USDA, was scheduled to report its plan to address Colony Collapse Disorder, in which worker bees vanish from the colony during the winter. Jones said the plan will be released in a few weeks, Gonzalez writes.

USDA and EPA disagree about some key issues. In a letter to EPA, Johansson said the USDA does not agree with EPA's evaluation of neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides: that they don't have economic benefit in soybean production. "Some scientists have linked neonicotinoids to pollinator deaths," Gonzalez writes. "Environmental groups are hoping the Obama administration adopts stricter regulations on neonicotinoids, while the agricultural community is encouraging regulatory agencies to recognize a range of factors that scientists say are impacting pollinator health."

EPA's Jones said his agency is "committed to sound science and the rule of law" and that they are working with the USDA. (Read more)

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