During the next month or so, we can expect an increased level of discussion about pollinators. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-NY) succinctly summarized the debate around pollinator health during yesterday’s hearing of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research. Subcommittee Chairman Davis said that the parasitic Varroa mite is one of many factors that influence pollinator health. He went on to state, “Nevertheless, despite the overwhelming consensus within the scientific community regarding the relative importance of the various factors contributing to overall pollinator health, the factor near the bottom of the scientific community’s list seems to be the factor highest on the list of activist groups. Pesticides, and in particular a new family of pesticides known as Neonics seem to be attracting the lion share of media and public interest attention. Neonics can be applied to the plant or used as a seed treatment. They are highly effective and have seen a very rapid adoption rate among producers because of the significant benefits they offer. It is frustrating that efforts to innovate and employ new, proven technologies to enhance our ability to produce food, feed and fiber are constantly under attack.”
During the hearing, Dr. Robert Johansson, USDA Acting Chief Economist, and Jim Jones, EPA Assistant Administrator, Office of Safety and Pollution Prevention, testified about USDA and EPA pollinator-related activities and coordination between the two agencies.
Jones said that the Pollinator Health Task Force will soon release its report on improving pollinator health and increasing pollinator habitat. About the same time, we expect EPA to propose changes to the labels of pesticide products that it deems “acutely toxic” to bees. The new EPA proposal will also call for states to adopt pollinator protection plans.
As the debate rages on, it is important to remember that landscape professionals are stewards of the land and the living creatures that thrive off of it, including pollinators, wild and domestic animals and people. Our members take great care to treat lawns, parks and other green spaces in a manner that protects pollinators and provides a health environment for families and pets to recreate. As our members enhance green spaces, we also increase pollinator habitat by choosing plants that provide forage for pollinators. So, next time you have a picnic or enjoy a butterfly garden, don’t forget to thank a landscape professional!
Laurie-Ann Flanagan is Executive Vice President at DCLRS with over 20 years of experience in the federal legislative and regulatory process. DCLRS has served as a government relations consultant to the association since 2003.