President Obama announced a government-wide strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators, which are vital to many crops. The strategy includes the establishment of a health task force to be co-chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy. The task force will also include representation of other major agencies including Defense and State, and will undertake studies and share data on pollinators. The agencies are also ordered to take efforts to increase pollinator habitat on federally controlled lands.
The memorandum also orders the EPA to:
• Assess the effect of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bee and other pollinator health and take action, as appropriate, to protect pollinators;
• Engage state and tribal environmental, agricultural, and wildlife agencies in the development of pollinator protection plans;
• Encourage the incorporation of pollinator protection and habitat planting activities into green infrastructure and superfund projects; and
• Expedite review of registration applications for new products targeting pests harmful to pollinators.
Also, the Agriculture Department announced $8 million in Conservation Reserve Program incentives for Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin farmers and ranchers who establish new habitats for honey bees. This is in addition to the $3 million USDA announced earlier this year.