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USDA honeybee pledge worth the money

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has pledged $3 million to help aid honeybees in five Midwestern states. It's a good step, and it's one that is well worth the money. This problem deserves more money thrown in its direction, in fact. Honeybees d...

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has pledged $3 million to help aid honeybees in five Midwestern states.

It's a good step, and it's one that is well worth the money. This problem deserves more money thrown in its direction, in fact.

Honeybees don't seem too significant, but they are. Commercial honeybees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of produce each year, according to an Associated Press report. The trouble is that honeybees have been battling population declines for the better part of the past decade.

The problem is habitat loss and pesticide use, along with a mysterious phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.

The $3 million will be used to reseed pastures with alfalfa, clover and other plants that are attractive to bees.

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It seems a bit far-fetched, and we acknowledge that. But something is going wrong, and experts have been watching it since approximately 2006.

In 2007, members of Congress -- including U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. -- began urging the federal government to respond to the troubles.

Thune was right to do that, since honeybees are big in South Dakota. Honey production in the state last year totaled 17 million pounds, the second most in the nation behind North Dakota. Not only is honey a big cash crop in our state, but the bees are so important in the whole agricultural process that we cannot wait to begin fixing this problem.

The $3 million pledged by USDA is a good step. Just as important will be America's acknowledgment that something is amiss, and that this really is a big deal if left unchecked.

Editor's note: This opinion was originally published in the Mitchell (S.D.) Daily Republic on Feb 28.

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