As reports of honey bee colony disappearances increase and the underlying cause, Colony Collapse Disorder, continues to baffle and alarm scientists, farmers, and beekeepers (http://riley.nal.usda.gov/naldisplay/index.php?infocenter=8&taxlevel=1&taxsubject=7&wantid=1322&topicid=0&placement_default=0), Congress has begun to consider measures to benefit pollinators.

Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), and 29 others on both sides of the aisle have co-sponsored the Pollinator Protection Act of 2007. The proposed legislation would insert language into the Conservation Title of the existing Farm Bill to strengthen both native and managed pollinator habitat. Specifically, the legislation would acknowledge pollinator habitat as a conservation resource and would reward producers whose conservation practices are beneficial to pollinators through programs administered by the Conservation Reserve Program, the Conservation Security Program, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Some reports indicate that the legislators hope the measure will find its way into the 2007 Farm Bill reauthorization being drafted by Congress.

“By helping to produce much of our food, natural fiber, medicine, and beverages, pollinating partners help generate an estimated $40 billion in income for American farmers and ranchers,” said Sen. Chambliss. “Pollinators also play a vital role in sustaining wildlife and ecosystem health, both as part of the complex food chain and in the reproduction of plants. This legislation calls for additional measures to ensure that our native and managed pollinator population is maintained and protected.”

In the House, Representative Alcee Hastings (D-FL) introduced the Pollinator Protection Act (H.R. 1709) on 27 March 2007. The legislation would authorize $7.25 million in appropriations for the Agricultural Research Service for bee-related research at the USDA Apicultural Research Laboratories and other USDA facilities in New York, Florida, California, and Texas as well as specific funds for a research program to identify causes and solutions for Colony Collapse Disorder. Additionally, H.R. 1709 would authorize $10 million in funds for the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, to provide extramural research grants to investigate honey bee immunology, genomics, biology, ecology, and bioinformatics; pollination biology; and the effects of genetically modified crops, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides on honey bees and other beneficial insects and pollinators. The legislation has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee for further consideration.

 


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