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Public Statements

Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

First, I would like to offer my highest commendation to Congressman Hastings for his work on this vital issue.

Let me begin with the words of Congressman Hastings: ``No bees, no food.''

The amendment being offered today will help coordinate the Federal response to the sudden, massive, and frightening decline in our Nation's bee population. Specifically, the amendment would allow the Secretary of Agriculture to work with the Secretary of Interior and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure the long-term viability of our bee population.

The amendment would allow the establishment of a task force on bee health and commercial beekeeping to coordinate Federal efforts in addressing the significant bee population decline.

Preliminary results from a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that over nearly a third of managed honeybee colonies in our country were lost during the 2012-2013 winter. That is an increase of 42 percent in honeybee losses. On average, U.S. beekeepers lost nearly half of their colonies during this past winter. This was an increase nationally of over 78 percent from the previous winter. Traditionally, the average loss had only been about 10 to 15 percent, and there have been significant honeybee losses in 22 different States.

This amendment will help coordinate the Federal response to the sudden massive decline of our Nation's bee population. Since 2006, we have lost 10 million beehives, costing beekeepers more than $2 billion. No one knows what is causing these dramatic losses, which was formally referred to as ``colony collapse disorder.'' We don't know if it is a natural phenomenon, we don't know if it is the result of changes in the environment, we don't know if it is due to interactions with genetically modified crops, we don't know if it is due to pesticides.

I can tell you one thing it is due to, because I've seen it myself in Ohio. It is due to mites that were shipped in to our nation from foreign countries in imported material. The critters got into these hives as they intermingled with our native hives. The mites came from foreign countries--from China, and from South Africa by way of Brazil--varroa mites among them--these mites are just crippling these colonies that have pollinated our orchards and our fields for generations.

We need to take this seriously because the massive decline in these populations threatens us all. Without sufficient bee pollination we will not be able to meet the demands of U.S. agricultural crops that require pollination to grow. It isn't by magic that all this happens. Not every plant is a self-pollinator.

That means if we do not have proper bee pollination, we will not be able to grow the food we need to feed our country. We are already importing too much food, food that could be grown here at home. China, but the way, is now shipping a product they call honey into our country. But it is not honey. It is corn syrup diluted with water. We need better honey labeling.

The decline in the bee population has been occurring over a period of time. But listen to these losses. In 1947, when America only had about 146 million people, we had 6 million bee colonies. In 1970, that number dropped to 4 million. And in 1990, the number fell to 3 million. Today, there are only 2.5 million bee colonies in our country. We have a population of 310 million, and it is projected by 2050 we will have a population of 500 million people. These numbers are not moving in the right direction.

Bee health is vitally important for our food system, as bee pollination helps produce about a third of what we eat--one-third. This adds $125 billion in global agricultural production value and 20 to $30 billion in United States agricultural production value.

Of the 100 crops that provide 90 percent of the world's food, over 70 percent are pollinated by bees. Are we listening? Of the 100 crops that provide 90 percent of the world's food, over 70 are pollinated by bees. That's 70%.

In North America, honeybees pollinate nearly 95 different kinds of fruits, including many specialty crops like almonds, avocados, cranberries, oranges, raspberries and apples, and so much more. The current Federal response to this problem is entirely inadequate. People are somnambulant. They think this is nonexistent because the bee is so small it can fly right by you and you don't even see it. In fact, most people don't know the difference between a honeybee and a bumblebee. Well, let me tell you, there is a big difference.

It is so bad that one professor was quoted as saying:

``We are one poor weather event or high winter bee loss away from a pollination disaster.''

Why have we let it get to this point where one bad storm could essentially wipe out our bee population? It is clear what we are doing is not working.

The amendment is supported by: American Honey Producers Association, American Beekeeping Federation, Pollinator Partnership, American Farm Bureau, Florida Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union, Blue Diamond Growers, Center for Food Safety, National Wildlife Federation.

In closing, I hope we can come together on a bipartisan basis to help stem the decline in our Nation's bee populations.

I urge adoption of the amendment.


Ms. KAPTUR. I thank the chairman, and yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, the amendment I'm offering today would create a clear set-aside for senior citizens in the Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

Senior hunger is a serious and growing problem, sadly, in our country. Feeding America estimates nearly 5 million seniors--5 million; 1 in 12--in 2011 were food insecure, double the number in 2001. With prices up and with what's happening across this country, we know that that number is not the top, but probably the base, and it's probably more.

So, senior hunger is a growing problem, and we know the costs of food are up. In fact, 6 percent of households with an elderly person are definitely food insecure, and we know that women over the age of 85 have a poverty rate of 13.8 percent. That means elderly women have the second-highest poverty rate in the Nation.

This is a great country. No single senior citizen in our country should ever have to worry about food.

I remember one senior center that I went to for a small little lunch, and they put these tiny sandwiches on the plate, and they cut them in half. And I remember a senior woman, very frail, very elderly, she took half a sandwich and ate it, and then when she thought no one else was looking, she wrapped up the other half of the sandwich and put it in her purse.

Unless you really see it, you don't realize how painful it is for millions of seniors across our country. Senior hunger has a health impact because food insecurity among elders causes more headaches, more dehydration, more disability, more decreases in resistance to infection, more high blood pressure and extended hospital stays.

In fact, food-insecure elderly persons have been found to be over two times more likely to report poor or fair health. Ultimately, the health impact of hunger results in higher health care costs.

In an effort to help address this serious problem of senior hunger, Congress created the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program. It is a very popular and very effective program. It is so small and meagerly funded it doesn't even function in every congressional district in this country.

But the program is a home run for seniors who need help, and it's a home run for local producers. The program brings together needy seniors, who purchase fresh and nutritious, locally-grown fruits, vegetables, honey and herbs at their local farmers markets, roadside stands and community-supported agriculture programs.

In effect, seniors help farmers and farmers help seniors. Farmers expand their customer base, and seniors buy fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, fresh honey, locally produced, which helps to combat many allergies which are growing across this country and, obviously, herbs.

The program helps local food production because farmers sell their agricultural products locally, at local places, with direct marketing.

There are similar programs for WIC participants but, unfortunately, the discretionary funding for the program has been declining. It is my hope that as we go to conference with the Senate we can look at the changes in the underlying bill and increase mandatory funding for a unified program.

From my perspective, a unified program holds the potential to serve the more needy seniors, which will help combat senior hunger. Given the damage sequestration is doing to Meals on Wheels and other senior assistance programs, I hope we can work on a bipartisan basis to support our seniors, the most vulnerable among us.

I urge adoption of the amendment, and reserve the balance of my time.


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