Ag leaders adopt measure to protect honeybees

Farm Forum

BISMARCK, N.D. – The nation’s top state agriculture officials are urging the federal government to work with them to develop strategies to protect the health of honeybees.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture recently adopted a policy amendment recommending that the federal 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 farmers, to ensure beekeepers continue to have access to areas that will support bee health.

Goehring said the amendment is in response to increasing losses of honeybees to colony collapse disorder, a mysterious phenomenon that has caused as much as one-third of the nation’s bees to disappear each winter since 2006. A federal report blames a combination of intertwined factors that include a parasitic mite, multiple viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition, genetics, habitat loss and pesticides.

“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,” Goehring said.

Bees pollinate more than 90 crops in the U.S., and they also produce 147 million pounds of honey nationally each year, with an annual value of $286 million, according to Goehring. North Dakota leads the nation in the production of honey. South Dakota is second.