GAO Report Asks USDA and EPA to Do More on Honey Bees

A Government Accountability Office report released Friday suggests that USDA hasn’t been adequately monitoring declines in native bee populations.

“USDA has increased monitoring of honey bee colonies managed by beekeepers to better estimate losses nationwide, but does not have a mechanism in place to coordinate the monitoring of wild, native bees that the White House Pollinator Health Task Force’s May 2015 strategy directs USDA and other federal agencies to conduct,” according to the report requested by Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

The GAO report recommended that USDA increase monitoring of native bee populations and evaluate the effectiveness of its farm conservation programs on promoting pollinator health. The department agreed the recommendations were valid, but said implementation would be delayed due to scarce resources.

It would be “physically and fiscally impossible” to monitor all of the approximately 4,000 species of native bees in the U.S., USDA Chief Scientist Catherine Woteki said in response to GAO’s recommendations. However, she said the Agricultural Research Service would be working this year to determine the historic distribution of a common set of “sentinel” bee species identified with help from the Interior Department.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is also in the process of “develop(ing) a feature in its conservation planning database to enable tracking on all acres on which conservation practices are planned and applied that will provide a benefit to pollinators, not just those acres from targeted pollinator initiatives, such as the NRCS Honey Bee effort,” Woteki said.

GAO recommended that NRCS and the Farm Service Agency “increase evaluation of the effectiveness of their efforts to restore and enhance bee habitat plantings across the nation, including identifying gaps in expertise and technical assistance funding available to field offices.”

GAO, citing the White House Pollinator Health Task Force’s May 2015 strategy, also recommended EPA identify the most commonly used tank mixtures to evaluate the effects on bees. “Beekeepers have raised concern that these mixtures of pesticide products may have synergistic effects on bees, meaning that the effect of the combination is greater than the sum of the effects of the individual pesticides,” GAO said.

EPA said “there is opportunity to identify some commonly used tank mixtures,” but assessing their risks, given the wide variety of combinations, “can be challenging, and determining the specific combination to test … could be difficult to identify at the national level.”

EPA Assistant Administrator James Jones, who responded to the GAO draft, said his agency may be able to use data from California “to identify chemicals that are used in particularly vulnerable scenarios (e.g., almonds, blueberries, cherries during pollination services) in California. By November 2017, the EPA will conduct a case study of honey bees in almond crops and determine the most commonly used tank mixtures for this scenario.”

Source: Agri Marketing

ProAg Quick Links

Agent Toolbox Grower Toolbox Careers

ProAg News

Michigan Farmers Bring Aid to Nebraska Flood Victims

Fahley was part of a group from Michigan, organized under the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Ag Community Relief, that has made four trips with trucks loaded with supplies to aid farmers in Nebraska and Iowa after a historic bomb cyclone and mass flooding in mid-March hit major portions of those states....

Should Nitrogen Take a Back Seat to Weed Control, Planting?

With major storm systems working their way across the Plains, Midwest and South this week, planting may seem a more distant dream than ever. For some farmers, it may be time to start prioritizing some fieldwork over others, crop experts told DTN....
Get ProAg updates via email
Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now