Dept. of Agriculture unveils first draft of state pollination protection plan
Pollinators are not only valued for promoting environmental health--they also contribute billions of dollars annually to the U.S. agriculture industry. Every year, Delaware farmers bring in 3,000 bee colonies to maximize crop pollination.
But as much research has shown, pollinators are declining. So in June 2014, President Obama took action, issuing a presidential memorandum that directed a task force, made up of the EPA and the USDA, to forge a federal strategy to protect pollinators.
The strategy, released last May, recommended that each state create a pollination protection plan.
Many state pollination plans are still in progress, but they vary widely. Iowa has taken a relatively aggressive approach that involves regulating, for example, times of the day that pesticides can be sprayed. Meanwhile, Arizona has not set out any plan whatsoever.
Chris Wade is the pesticide compliance administrator at the state Department of Agriculture. And he wants Delaware’s plan to hit somewhere between Iowa’s and Arizona’s--taking some action, but not so much that it alienates people in the process.
“People seem more receptive when it’s not a new law or fine put in place. You know, we got to get people on the same page first," said Wade.
The first draft of Delaware’s plan contains voluntary guidelines, like recommending that landowners and beekeepers work together on hive placement and asking pesticide applicators to spray in early morning or evening, when pollinators tend to be less active.
Wade says that the DDA wants to promote the kind of communication they’ve been able to foster by encouraging farmers and beekeepers to use the DriftWatch program. DriftWatch is an online mapping tool that registers the locations of specialty crops and apiaries, so pesticide users know where not to spray.
“And we think that if [beekeepers and pesticide users] communicate, there will be better bee health out there, because [beekeepers] can inform the applicators of an issue about an application too close to their property," said Wade.
A 60-day public comment period on the draft begins now and will close on March 15. Officials want to finalize the plan before the summer, ahead of growing season, but a hard deadline has yet to be determined.