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Senators Push for Honey Bee Data Collection

September 19, 2019, 2:28 PM HST
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Honey bees, pollinators crucial to agricultural health and prosperity, are struggling all across the country.

The buzz might be quieting when it comes to federally-sponsored honeybee research in the United States.

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) joined 22 other Senate Democrats in writing to Sonny Perdue, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, expressing concerns over the Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) decision to reduce, or even suspend, the collection of honeybee data across the nation.

“In July, NASS announced that it would suspend the collection of quarterly data for the annual Honey Bee Colonies report,” the senators wrote. “The Honey Bee Colonies report, first published in 2016, is the only national survey tracking honeybee loss that is overseen by the federal government. It not only provides key data to beekeepers, the honey industry and farmers whose crops rely on honeybees for pollination but also helps to guide honeybee management decisions and identifies colony health stressors. USDA’s recent announcement that it would resume the Colony Loss Survey, following a one-quarter suspension, to inform the Honey Bee Colonies report is welcome news. However, USDA’s prior actions to suspend or scale back the collection of additional honeybee data remains a concern.”

The Senators’ efforts are supported by national groups such as the American Honey Producers Association and the American Beekeeping Federation. Local support includes Big Island Bees, an apiary on Hawai‘i Island that Sen. Hirono visited last month to learn more about the importance of honeybee production in Hawai‘i.

“Data collection has saved our operation,” said Garnett Puett, Big Island Bees co-owner and beekeeper. “Without an understanding of the issues we face, we would be left out in the dark on how to best keep our bees alive. Information provided in USDA reports and surveys allows researchers to develop methods that allow us to maintain healthy colonies. The more data we have, the better our ability to protect honeybees here in the U.S. and across the globe.”

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Other entities weighed in as well, stressing the necessity of honey bees to the health of the country’s ecosystem.

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“The American Beekeeping Federation is in full support of USDA’s decision to resume the NASS on the health of managed honey bees,” said Tim May, President of the American Beekeeping Federation and commercial beekeeper. “Honey bees are so important to our country’s agriculture and with their continued declining health it is imperative that the USDA continues to monitor colony health regularly it is critical to the future of U.S. agriculture production.”

  • The Senators also requested the following information related to the decision to limit fiscal and program resources:
  • The Fiscal Year 2019 funding amount that Congress provided NASS to collect information for the Cost of Pollination Survey and the Honey survey.
  • The amount of money that remained in the budget for the aforementioned surveys at the time that NASS announced the decisions to suspend or scale back each of these surveys.
  • The cost savings incurred by NASS to scale back or suspend these surveys.
  • The current location of the cost savings incurred because of these decisions.

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