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Published June 20, 2014, 03:24 PM

EPA will study effects of pesticides

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture on June 20 announced $8 million in Conservation Reserve Program incentives for Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin farmers and ranchers who establish new habitats for declining honeybee populations.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture on June 20 announced $8 million in Conservation Reserve Program incentives for Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin farmers and ranchers who establish new habitats for declining honeybee populations. President Barack Obama announced a government-wide strategy to promote the health of honeybees and other pollinators that will include an Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the impact of pesticides on honeybees.

More than half of the commercially managed honeybees are in these five states during the summer, USDA noted. The announcement comes in addition to $3 million USDA designated to the Midwest states to support bee populations earlier this year through the Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

The honeybee population in the U.S. has been declining for decades. The number of managed U.S. honeybee colonies dropped from 6 million in 1947, to just 2.5 million today, USDA said.

Meanwhile, in his announcement, Obama said, “Given the breadth, severity and persistence of pollinator losses, it is critical to expand federal efforts and take new steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels. These steps should include the development of new public-private partnerships and increased citizen engagement.”

Through a memorandum, Obama established a Pollinator Health Task Force to be co-chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

The task force, which is to include representatives of other major agencies including the departments of Defense and State, will undertake studies and share data on pollinators, including the Monarch butterfly, and orders the agencies to take efforts to increase pollinator habitat on federally controlled lands.

The memorandum also says, “The Environmental Protection Agency shall assess the effect of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bee and other pollinator health and take action, as appropriate, to protect pollinators; engage state and tribal environmental, agricultural, and wildlife agencies in the development of state and tribal pollinator protection plans; encourage the incorporation of pollinator protection and habitat planting activities into green infrastructure and Superfund projects; and expedite review of registration applications for new products targeting pests harmful to pollinators.”

Some environmentalists have called for a ban on neonicotinoids, but the companies that produce the pesticides and some academics have said the causes of colony collapse disorder are much broader.

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