Bees Need More Forage, Everybody Needs More Bees

From CATCH THE BUZZ by Kim Flottum (Bee Culture Magazine) 5/7/12

California is the first to ask, but beekeepers everywhere should be doing the same thing. But if you are from California, or, more likely, take bees to California for pollination, or even more likely, buy bees from California Queen and Package producers, then the outcome of this appeal will affect what you do there directly and immediately. If you're not from California, or don't partake of their bees, queens or pollination contracts, it’ll take awhile longer to get to your place. But it will.

May 8, 2012

Val Dolcini, State Executive Director
California Farm Service Agency
430 G Street, Suite 4161
Davis, CA 95616-4161

Re: Request for Assistance re Larger Scale Forage Needs of Managed Honey Bees in California

Dear Mr. Dolcini:

The undersigned organizations request your assistance in helping beekeepers gain access to high quality, safe forage at the larger scale needed for honey bees on both ag and public lands in California.

Honey bees and beekeepers remain clearly in trouble, jeopardizing the continued viability of commercial pollination industry and predictable and affordable pollination services provided to agricultural producers. Natural forage and nutrition are essential to good honey bee health, and a key part of the beekeeping industry’s efforts lies in access to high quality and safe forage at the larger scale needed for honey bees.

Unfortunately, beekeepers are actually losing access to traditional sources of safe forage due to a number of factors, including barriers to beekeeper access to safe forage on public lands. The forage value of traditional cropland and adjacent strips of land is diminished due to monoculture practices and pesticide use. Larger scale landscape plantings, such as on CRP and rotational and cover crops, are needed to meet the nutritional needs of managed honey bee colonies.

The greatest need for ag pollination services and a clearly documented forage deficit for honey bees are in California. We appreciate actions the Farm Service Agency (FSA) has already taken at the national level to implement the pollinator conservation provisions of the 2008 farm bill, specifically by including bonus eligibility points to encourage CRP applicants to commit to planting at least 10 percent of acreage as pollinator habitat. However, we believe practical steps can be taken to create 30 million acres of quality, safe forage at the larger scale needed by honey bees—100% of CRP acreage, not 10%.

For agricultural lands, California FSA can—

1. Establish the goal of making 100 percent of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in California high quality, safe forage for honey bees.

2. Establish affordable and appropriate planting mix recommendations on CRP lands for larger scale plantings for honey bee forage.

3. Educate California FSA staff about the larger scale forage needs of honey bees, and appropriate, affordable planting mixes for pollinator forage.

4. Encourage FSA at the national level to enhance CRP eligibility criteria to encourage agricultural producers to include bee-beneficial seed mixes to create diverse forage at the larger scale needed by honey bees.

5. Task California FSA staff with making agricultural producers aware of larger scale honey bee forage needs and appropriate, affordable planting mixes and to encourage them to plant CRP lands with bee pasture. Much of the CRP acreage is already planted with quality bee forage.

6. Encourage farmers and ranchers to put out the welcome mat for beekeepers on CRP lands.

For public lands, your personal leadership would be invaluable in helping to engage public land managers to encourage and facilitate improved access to public lands for beekeepers and their bees.

We would be pleased to meet with you when our leadership is in Sacramento to discuss how we can collaborate in addressing this important natural resource need.

Please contact Kathy Kellison at (707) 321-4711 or, who will facilitate scheduling at our end.

Thank you for your consideration.


Bryan Ashurst, President, California State Beekeepers Association (CSBA)
Paul Wenger, President, California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF)
Christi Heintz, Executive Director, Project Apis m.
George Hansen, President, American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) 
Mark Jensen, American Honey Producers Association (AHPA)
Kathy Kellison, Executive Director, Partners for Sustainable Pollination (PFSP)

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(The above brought to you by CATCH THE BUZZ (Kim Flottum) Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping, published by A.I. Root Company.)