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Letter to Ed Schafer, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Re: Address Honeybee Crisis Damaging Agriculture

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Letter to Ed Schafer, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Re: Address Honeybee Crisis Damaging Agriculture

Clinton Calls on USDA to Address Honeybee Crisis Damaging Agriculture

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton today joined a bipartisan group of Senators in calling on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase efforts to identify the cause and develop a remedy for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, Clinton and her colleagues underscored the threat CCD poses to beekeepers and agriculture that relies on honeybee pollination, and posed several serious questions relating to the USDA's efforts to combat CCD.

"The decline in honeybee population poses a serious threat to growers across the country, but as the situation worsens, the USDA seems no closer to finding a cause or a cure for CCD. With reports showing that beekeepers are already experiencing increased colony losses this year, I urge Secretary Schafer to explain what action the USDA has taken to address CCD, and to provide in detail any planned efforts to stop and reverse this potentially devastating trend," said Senator Clinton.

Senator Clinton has co-sponsored two pieces of legislation to address the recent rapid decline of the honeybee population. The Pollinator Protection Act of 2007, introduced in the Senate last year, would enhance funding for research on honeybees and other pollinators to examine CCD, which has been blamed for the rapid decline in the honeybee population. The bill would also require that an annual report be submitted to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on the status and progress of the bee research projects.

The Pollinator Habitat Protection Act of 2007, also introduced in the Senate last year, would utilize existing farm bill conservation programs to strengthen both native and managed pollinator habitats and does not require additional funding. One of the factors leading to the decline in pollinator populations is habitat degradation and the lack of adequate food sources. The bill would require existing conservation programs to acknowledge pollinator habitats as a conservation resource and rewards producers whose conservation practices are beneficial for pollinators.

The text of the Senators' letter is below.

April 1, 2008

The Honorable Ed Schafer
Secretary
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-0002

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Last year, beekeepers experienced significant colony losses due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). On April 21, 2007, 43 Senators from 29 states sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting a report on the Department's immediate actions to address the CCD outbreak. We appreciated your response provided on October 2, 2007. However, one year later, beekeepers are still experiencing significant colony die-off. In fact, preliminary reports indicate that beekeepers are suffering increased losses this year when compared to last year. While we recognize these efforts take time and sustained commitment, we remain concerned that USAD is no closer to finding the cause of CCD than when we sent our letter last year.

USDA must step-up its efforts to identify the cause and remedy for CCD and other serious threats to honeybee health before our agricultural sector suffers irreparable damage. As you well know, some beekeepers have already gone out of business due to colony die-offs, and many more are struggling financially. In addition, farmers whose crops require pollinators are faced with increased pollination fees. If die-offs continue at the current rate, farmers will be unable to find enough pollinators to pollinate their fruit and vegetable crops. USDA's efforts must be couple with increased financial support for beekeepers that sustain losses, while a causative agent or remedy is yet to be identified. We ask USDA to evaluate whether low interest loans or temporary financial assistance can be provided to beekeepers whose finances have been compromised by significant colony die-off due to CCD.

We are concerned that USDA has not adequately funded critical work as outlined by the CCD Action Plan to identify the cause of CCD. This is disturbing, and is not indicative of the high priority that eradicating CCD must have within the Department.

Due to the urgency of the situation, we request detailed response to the following questions:

1. In 2007, what CCD and/or honeybee health projects were funded by USDA? What was the increase in funding for these projects in FY 2007 as compared to FY 2006?

2. In 2008, which CCD and/or honeybee health projects does UDA plan to fund and how much additional funding will be allocated for such research? Which senior official at the Department is coordinating these efforts?

3. What other projects relating to CCD and/or honeybee health have researchers from the USDA, academia and private industry identified as necessary to address these serious issues, and how does USDA plan to support these efforts?

4. Based on your research efforts to date, what has USDA learned about CCD and its potential causes?

5. What financial assistance is currently available for beekeepers struggling with CCD? Does USDA intend to provide additional assistance to those beekeepers with significant colony losses?

6. Does USDA require additional statutory authority to provide assistance to beekeepers who have sustained CCD- related bee losses?

We understand the CCD is a complex issue; however, we feel it is imperative that the Department increase its efforts to ascertain the cause of CCD. Due to the urgent nature of this request, we ask for your reply no later than May 1st. We anxiously await your report and any recommendations on this critical matter for American agricultural producers and consumers.

Sincerely,


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