The nation's top state agriculture officials have urged the federal government to work with them in developing strategies for promoting the health and welfare of bees.
At its recent annual meeting in Asheville, N.C., the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture adopted a policy amendment recommending that the USDA Agricultural Research Service work with state agriculture departments to implement "pollinator plans."
North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who introduced the amendment, said the plans should emphasize enhanced communication between beekeepers and agriculture producers.
"The overall goal is to ensure that beekeepers continue to have access to areas with adequate forage that will support bee health to sustain a pollinator population for flowering crops and a peaceful co-existence between beekeepers and agriculture producers," Goehring noted in a statement.
Goehring added that the amendment is in response to increasing losses of honeybees to colony collapse disorder, a syndrome involving disappearing adult honeybees. Though the cause of CCD is largely unknown, a recent USDA and Environmental Protection Agency joint report suggests that poor nutrition, lack of adequate forage, decreased genetic diversity, viruses and parasites are suspected factors.
Pesticides have also been implicated, although more research is needed to determine field-level pesticide exposures to bees.
"The primary use of the land is for crop and livestock production," Goehring said. "Beekeepers and farmers can work together to identify optimum hive placement with respect to bee habitat, water, forage, and cultivation practices that reduce the risk of pesticide exposure without interfering with agricultural activities."
Domestic and wild bees are needed to pollinate over 90 crops in the U.S., and pollination services have an annual estimated value to U.S. agriculture of $19 billion. Honeybees also produce 147 million pounds of honey nationally each year, with an annual value of $286 million.