Pollinators, like butterflies, moths and particularly honeybees, are integral members of the Minnesota River Basin, doing the part of fertilizing plants by transporting pollen.
Follow us on Twitter at @AdvocateTribune
Minnesota State Representatives Jean Wagenius (DFL, 63B), Andrew Falk (DFL, 17A) and Rick Hansen (DFL, 52A) were in town at Cure Organization headquarters to hold a pollinator public policy forum midday Friday, Oct. 10. Hansen lead the discourse on pollinator conservation.
Pollinators, like butterflies, moths and particularly honeybees, are integral members of the Minnesota River Basin, doing the part of fertilizing plants by transporting pollen. Hansen spoke of four detriments to health of pollinators - poor habitat, poor nutrition, parasites and pesticides. Pesticides weaken pollinator food sources and habitat, which weakens pollinators that are finished off when fighting parasites below full strength.
Rep. Wagenius relayed to the citizens gathered for the forum that the research into pollinators, of which he said the University of Minnesota and state legislatures or the leaders of the nation, is the first held by the state since 1917. The state recognizes that pollinator conservation is a priority, but, with such dated information, is still in the early stages of allocating public funds and land for honeybee research. Hansen stated his intention to, whenever public funds are used for things like prairie restoration, buffer zone implementation or the creation of state parks, make sure the set funds aside for honeybee “refuge or reserve.” Hansen continues; “when spending public money, we want to make sure to have pollinator habitats.” Such habitats would be a mix of native species and plants to create a natural and healthy habitat for honeybees.
On the national level, President Barack Obama, in June, mandated that all state legislatures report back to him within 180 days on ways to aid pollinators. That deadline is coming up, and Hansen believes, alongside the steps the Minnesota legislature has taken, that “there will be action at the federal level,” as that deadline approaches.
The Minnesota legislature has passed a bill that Hansen authored and is the “first of its kind in the country.” The bill no longer allows green industry fertilizer makers from labeling their plants as bee, butterfly or pollinator friendly if it is laced with systemic pesticides. Another bill followed the Minnesota precedent of compensating farmers if a wolf attacks cattle or if an elk grazes through crop, Hansen was involved in a bill that compensates beekeepers if their bees are killed due to pesticides. If determined that the bee kill was caused by a farmer that applies pesticides according to label, the compensation is taken out of the fund pesticide distributors pay states to sell their product. If the bee kill is dues to pesticides applied by someone who did so against label, by “using too much or during the wrong wind speed,” according to Hansen, the individual applying the pesticide is liable.
Honeybee habitats are dwindling primarily because the majority of tillable land is used for corn or soybeans. Neith environment is suitable for beehives. Presently, honeybees have resorted to going to road ditches because those are some of the few places the environment grows without pesticides and little maintenance. There grows sweet clovers, which, as Hansen pointed out, is a noxious weed and would be cleared out by any farmer. Honeybees love and can thrive off sweet clover. Fields of hay or alfalfa are also conducive to healthy bees, but conservation land is used more and more for commodity growth. After Hansen spoke the public forum broke into open conversation. The primary topic was the Conservation Reserve Program, or CPR, a program in which farmers are incentivized to conserve land in its natural state, untilled. Many present felt that the federal and state government are not properly prioritizing conservation land, forcing local farmers to opt into using land for commodity growth, primarily corn and soybeans, to stay afloat. Many there urged Hansen, Falk and Wagenius to do more to make opportunities for farmers to have room on their farm for conservation without breaking the bank. Hansen agreed and vowed to do more to represent farmers struggling to make ends meet while supporting the environment and nodded along as one citizen called the issue “the most important problem of our lifetime,” following that by saying pollinator preservation “helps agriculture, the environment, helps hunters, helps anglers, helps Minnesota and helps the country.”