By Tom Driscoll, government relations representative, National Farmers Union

On Tuesday, May 19, the White House’s Pollinator Health Task Force released the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. The strategy includes:

  • calls for additional funds for pollinator health research,
  • increased and improved pollinator habitat through conservation programs, enhanced management of public lands and public/private partnerships,
  • consideration of a prohibition on foliar applications of pesticides during contracted services, and
  • an acceleration of the Environmental Protection Agency’s review of neonicotinoid pesticides.

NFU’s policy acknowledges the vital role pollinators play for family agriculture and encourages collaboration between the pesticide manufacturing and pollinator industries to establish the best means for protecting pollinators while ensuring producers have access to the crop protection tools they need. Specifically, NFU supports research on innovative approaches to protecting honeybee health and improving the genetic stock of honeybees, promoting pollinator-beneficial habitat through conservation programs, public research on the effects of pesticides on bee colonies and EPA enforcement of pesticide use labels to ensure proper applications.

NFU appreciates the Administration’s recognition of the accomplishments farmers and beekeepers have achieved together, but asserts that we can achieve a lot more without regulatory intervention. NFU policy does not support a prohibition on foliar applications of pesticides during contracted services. Family farmers maintain a strong history of stewardship and, if education, communication and information-sharing is properly facilitated, will participate in pollinator enhancement voluntarily. NFU is also concerned that accelerated review of useful crop protectants could result in limiting options for farmers, compromising their ability to produce food, fuel, fiber and feed effectively. We laud the Administration’s efforts on behalf of pollinators and look forward to participating in enhanced conservation programs and public/private partnerships, but urge the Pollinator Health Task Force to revisit the matters of the foliar application ban and accelerated neonicotinoid review.