Massachusetts Lawmakers Ignore Pollinator Protection Plan Supported by 3,000+ Beekeepers

For Immediate Release

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Erin Jensen
Email: EJensen@foe.org

Massachusetts Lawmakers Ignore Pollinator Protection Plan Supported by 3,000+ Beekeepers

BOSTON - The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ release last Thursday of a proposed state Pollinator Protection Plan has outraged beekeeping leaders across the state who say the state plan promotes the interests of pesticide companies while ignoring recommendations put forward by beekeeping industry experts who are trying to reverse a decline in pollinators needed for food production.

MDAR is holding a meeting today, March 7 from 2-4 p.m. EST regarding the Massachusetts Pollinator Protection Plan at the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Room 110 Cronin Building, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA. Beekeepers will be at the meeting to weigh in and oppose the plan.

“The beekeepers’ plan would help bees. MDAR’s plan will not,” said Ann Rein, president of Plymouth County Beekeepers Association and one of the authors of the beekeepers Pollinator Protection Plan Framework. “By not adopting the beekeepers’ framework the state is discounting the knowledge and expertise of the beekeeping community. This is egregious.”

MDAR asked for comments earlier this year regarding the plan, prompting more than 3,000 beekeepers across the state to work together to create a Pollinator Protection Plan Framework. The framework presented to the state agency was written by leaders in the beekeeping industry who have hundreds of years of combined beekeeping experience in Massachusetts. Among them are scientists, past state apiary inspectors, attorneys, farmers, gardeners and commercial and hobby beekeepers.

"Massachusetts Farm Bureau initially wrote the plan without the input of county beekeepers and did not address any of the issues to protect pollinators," said Lucy Tabit, owner of Hana’s Honey. "They put my name on it, without my knowledge or permission. MDAR informed us they would merge our plan with the plan created by Farm Bureau. Instead they wrote their own plan that ignored our inputs. If the state really wants to protect bees, they should adopt the beekeepers’ plan. We don’t know who’s running this initiative – what we do know is that it’s NOT us beekeepers. If my beehives are being killed by agricultural or residential chemical spray, so are the countless other native pollinators and the other wildlife that eat them.”

The Pollinator Protection Plan proposed by MDAR ignored the beekeeping community's requests and favors the pesticide industry. The plan:

  • Places responsibility on backyard beekeepers to avoid pesticides rather than placing responsibility on the state to adopt statewide pesticide restrictions
  • Does not place limitations on bee-killing pesticides
  • Does not provide information to the public to identify plants treated with neonicotinoid insecticides
  • Does not create pollinator forage that is free of pesticides
  • Places unfair regulation and imposes unrealistic policies on beekeepers, preventing them from being able to successfully manage their bees
  • Asks beekeepers to identify hive locations, but fails to require pesticide applicators to report where they are applying pesticides or notify beekeepers of applications
  • Fails to address native bees and native pollinators; only addresses managed bees
  • Requires beekeepers to stop their bees from swarming, which is not always possible because swarming is a natural process in a strong healthy hive.

The White House established the Pollinator Health Task Force in June 2014 to assess pollinator health and the impacts of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on pollinators. In May, the Task Force released its National Pollinator Health Strategy. As part of the federal strategy, EPA is relying on states and tribes to develop pollinator protection plans.

"What’s happening in Massachusetts seems to have happened in other states too like New York and Wisconsin,” said Wayne Andrews, Adjunct Instructor of Beekeeping and a member of Bristol County Beekeepers Association. “These plans promote a pesticide industry agenda instead of addressing the systemic drivers killing our bees. A weak state plan may mean that beekeepers will become an endangered species, along with our pollinators.”

“Beekeepers across the country are being ignored while the pesticide industry continues to pull the wool over legislators’ eyes,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “The EPA is passing the buck to states instead of seeking solutions for the beekeepers that are bearing the brunt of agency policies. The EPA must adopt a federal, unified plan that addresses the use of systemic pesticides to protect bees and beekeepers.”

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Friends of the Earth is the U.S. voice of the world's largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

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