US: SAF urges key lawmakers to support pollinator health research funding

SAF joined with dozens of groups from agriculture and beyond to call on Congress to increase funding for important research on pollinator health.

The letter, addressed to Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.) and Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), asks lawmakers to support increases in President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget, including a $7 million increase to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service budget for the Pollinator Health Initiative and $500,000 increase for the National Agricultural Statistics Service to further analyze honey bee colony losses and pollination costs for the Pollinator Health Initiative.

A new website will go a long way towards educating people about the pollinator issue.

“For over a decade, beekeepers have been suffering from higher than typical overwintering losses,” according to the letter. “These losses and the unpredictability of their severity have threatened the sustainability of this important segment of agriculture. That is why all sectors of agriculture, including row crop, specialty crop, beekeepers, and related agricultural industries have come together to express support for the allocation of these funds and exhibit our shared interest in pursuing this research so that we may all base our decisions on sound science.”

The groups signing the letter also expressed their support for the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture and its role in coordinating efforts for long-term protection of pollinator health.

The letter comes at a time when pollinator health is in the headlines — and “misunderstandings about the highly complex issue, and the role that neonicotinoids, or ‘neonics,’ a class of pesticides, play in pollinator health, are many,” said SAF’s senior director of government relations Lin Schmale.

“This is an issue for which sound science must take priority,” she said.

The letter falls on the heels of the Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative’s launch of a website, designed as the go-to place for industry and media to find more information about the pollinator issue. Supported by SAF, AmericanHort and the industry’s research arms, the Horticultural Research Institute and the American Floral Endowment, the Initiative’s website provides a go-to resource for information about bee and pollinator health — whether bee colonies are really still declining and the positive impact the industry can play in promoting bee health. It also cites bee research being conducted by HRI and AFE. Go to the website to download a brochure and “frequently asked questions,” designed for growers, landscapers, and their customers.

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