CATCH THE BUZZ: All Around The Beeyard

CATCH THE BUZZ October 4, 2019

“ALL AROUND THE BEEYARD IS A REGULAR COLUMN IN BEE CULTURE, WRITTEN BY OUR READERS FOR OUR READERS. HOW TO SOLVE THOSE TRICKY PROBLEMS.”
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all around the beeyard.jpg

Have  you figured out a way to fix it, move it, make it, shake it, show it, know it, record it, get to it, or anything else that has made what you do with bees easier, faster, smarter, better, cheaper, or just plain more fun? You can’t buy these in a catalog, they are the GREAT ideas that everyday beekeepers see, do, make, discover, uncover that makes what they do more fun, cheaper, easier or faster.

We’ll bet you have one of those ideas, tricks or tips or maybe 2 or 3 or 10. Share them with the world with a short write up, a photo or two or a drawing or two and we’ll share them with our thousands of readers. Everyone that gets picked every month gets a free 1 year subscription, and the best one each month gets a $100 prize.

Send your tips and tricks and best ideas, along with a short write up and a photo or 2 or 3 to kim@beeculture, with BEEYARD in the subject line, and we’ll share them with the world. Hurry, somebody somewhere needs and wants that best idea you have, and you can give them a hand. And thanks.

https://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-all-around-the-beeyard-is-a-regular-column-in-bee-culture-written-by-our-readers-for-our-readers-how-to-solve-those-tricky-problems-2/?utm_source=Catch+The+Buzz&utm_campaign=aa15765df2-Catch_The_Buzz_4_29_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0272f190ab-aa15765df2-256252085

New Honey Nutrition Label Will Not Have Added Sugar On The Label

CATCH THE BUZZ    September 11, 2018

Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on an updated approach for including added sugar information on the Nutrition Facts labels of pure maple syrup and honey.

Advancing better nutrition is one of my top priorities and implementing the update to the iconic Nutrition Facts label — the first overhaul in 20 years — is a key part of that commitment.

We’re already seeing the new label on many products. This updated label is empowering consumers with accurate and science-based information to help them make more informed, healthier choices. As part of our updates to the Nutrition Facts label, we’ve leveraged the latest information we have on nutritional science with the intent to help reduce the burden of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Toward these goals, the final rule to update the Nutrition Facts label includes a listing of “added sugars.” The old label simply listed the total grams of sugar without distinguishing between sugars that are naturally occurring, such as in fruits and vegetables, and sugars that align with the definition of added sugars established by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines for what constitutes added sugars, which inform the development of federal nutrition policies, define added sugars as caloric sweeteners that include, not only sugar, but also honey and maple syrup as well as other sweeteners.

While added sugars can be part of a healthy dietary pattern, the science underlying the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans demonstrates that meeting nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits is difficult when added sugars contribute more than 10 percent of a person’s total daily calories. There’s strong and consistent evidence that healthy dietary patterns characterized, in part, by lower intakes of sweetened foods and beverages, are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

We’ve made it our goal to increase consumer awareness of the quantity of added sugars in food products consistent with recent dietary guideline recommendations. The updated Nutrition Facts Label is an important part of this effort. The new label also contains the new daily value for added sugars, so consumers can better understand how foods with added sugars can fit into a healthy dietary pattern.

While added sugars declared on the updated Nutrition Facts label include sweeteners added to processed foods, they also include foods that are “packaged as such” including a bag of table sugar, jar of honey or container of maple syrup. We recognized that this new labeling information on “packaged as such” products may inadvertently lead consumers to think their pure products, such as a jar of honey or maple syrup, may actually contain added table sugar or corn syrup because there are “added sugars” listed on the label.

That’s why in February 2018, we issued a draft guidance for industry open for public comment that would help clarify the added sugars declaration on the label of pure, single-ingredient “packaged as such” products like maple syrup and honey. This draft guidance was the FDA’s initial thinking about ways we can work to help ensure that the updated Nutrition Facts label is helpful to consumers. The guidance advised food manufacturers about our intent to allow the use of an obelisk symbol, “†,” immediately after the added sugars percent daily value information on containers of pure maple syrup or pure honey. This would direct consumers to language that provides information about what “added sugars” actually mean for these specific products.

As with any draft guidance, we carefully consider comments submitted to the public docket and feedback from stakeholder meetings and interactions to inform us in issuing our final guidance. In this case, the more than 3,000 comments we received on the draft guidance indicate that there are further opportunities to update our proposed approach. We’re grateful for this feedback. It has helped us identify a solution that we think will more adequately address concerns and provide needed clarity to consumers.

We’re currently drafting our final guidance, which we anticipate issuing by early next year, well in advance of the January 2020 compliance date for larger firms for the updated Nutrition Facts label. This guidance will provide a path forward for pure, single-ingredient “packaged as such” products that does not involve the standard “added sugars” declaration on the Nutrition Facts label. We are not considering changes to the required percent daily value for these products, including for products like pure honey and maple syrup. We believe that such a solution strikes the balance of addressing producer concerns that their products could be perceived as being economically adulterated while still informing consumers on how these products contribute to their daily added sugar intake.

Although we’re continuing to work on a revised approach, I believe that an updated approach will both clarify requirements to successfully implement the Nutrition Facts label and achieve the goal of empowering consumers to use the new label to make informed and healthy dietary choices. Through engaged dialogue and open public comment on our nutritional strategies, I’m committed to finding ways to advance our work in nutrition to improve the lives of all Americans by reducing the burden of preventable illness.

Catch The Buzz: New Honey Nutrition Label Will Not Have Added Sugar on the Label

New Technology Makes Commercial Beekeeping More Efficient, Profitable

 CATCH THE BUZZ     July 13, 2018

In an effort to provide beekeepers with a more effective and comprehensive management system, two Healthy Hives 2020 grant recipients recently announced a new collaboration that could help transform commercial beekeeping practices by using Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, combined with web and mobile apps, to track and manage honey bee colonies.

Hive Tracks, an apiary management software provider, and its chief executive officer, James Wilkes, PhD., have been an integral part of the Healthy Hives 2020 research conducted by Joseph Cazier, PhD., professor and director of the Center for Analytics Research and Education at Appalachian State University. Both Cazier and Brandon Hopkins, PhD., assistant research professor in the Department of Entomology at Washington State University, received research grants in 2016 that focused on how to improve management practices for commercial beekeepers.

To view a current KIM&JIM Show webinar produced in June, 2018, about this program featuring Dr. Hopkins, click on the link below or paste it into your browser –

https://register.gotowebinar.com/recording/recordingView?webinarKey=1843148016502893057&registrantEmail=Kim%40beeculture.com

“There are currently not a lot of management tools for commercial beekeepers. Many of them are still managing their operations with notebooks, pencil and paper, or trying to keep track of treatments and issues with objects like thumb tacks, cattle ear tags and wax pencils,” said Hopkins. “For our project, we’ve been developing a way to transform those systems into digital information that can be gathered without adding additional work or time in the field.”

By using RFID technology, that information can be analyzed to inform best practices in commercial beekeeping. Beekeepers can then use those practices to develop decision support tools that can provide timely data on their hives, ultimately decreasing losses.

But to do this, Hopkins needed to be able to collect the data. This led him to research RFID technology, which he eventually implemented with individual hives. RFID tags are used in a wide range of industries, from retail stores tracking inventory to airlines tracking baggage. Hopkins’ team began placing the tags on individual hives and worked with a software development company to create a platform that would enable beekeepers to monitor their hives for such basic beekeeping management duties as when and where the hives were checked, as well as the location of each hive.

While Hopkins was developing his RFID technology, Cazier, Wilkes and the Hive Tracks team were using their Healthy Hives 2020 grant to put the finishing touches on the second version of its innovative Hive Tracks Apiary Management System.

“Many of the major concerns of a commercial beekeeper involve the day-to-day management of the hives in an operation,” said Wilkes. “They want to know, ‘Where are my hives? How many hives do I have, and what are their conditions? Who was the last person to touch them, and what did they do?”

According to Wilkes, Hive Tracks began as a software system for hobbyists and sideliners. “However, we knew there was a huge gap in technology that could benefit commercial beekeepers,” said Wilkes. “We recognized the challenge of adopting new technology within the commercial beekeeping space, so the system had to be simple to use, and our software system provides a framework that can evolve from a super simple foundation to more complex hive level data.”

That’s where Hopkins’ research came in. “Our system is designed to focus on the bee yard level to make it accessible for adoption by commercial beekeepers,” said Wilkes. “But RFID enables you to include the hive level and opens the door for a wide range of additional information that all of us believe is important, but is often difficult to collect.”

Both Hopkins and Hive Tracks were exhibitors at the 2017 American Bee Federation conference, and it did not take long for them to consider the possibility of working together. Hopkins and Wilkes then began to talk about leveraging their respective research focuses for a more collaborative effort, which could help them accelerate their technology development and reach more beekeepers.

Hive Tracks and Hopkins are well on their way to integrating the RFID technology into the Apiary Management System. “We have begun the integration process and hope to have an RFID option tested and available for beekeepers in the spring of 2019,” said Wilkes.

“For the Healthy Hives 2020 initiative, this partnership really serves beekeepers by building one integrated platform instead of using two separate ones,” said Danielle Downey, executive director of Project Apis m. which manages the program. “One of the things we hoped would come out of this research program was innovative collaboration between the researchers, and Brandon and James are doing exactly that.”

Funded by Bayer, Healthy Hives 2020 is a $1 million research effort to improve the health of honey bee colonies in the U.S. by the end of 2020. Over the past three years, Healthy Hives 2020 has provided grants to fund 10 honey bee health research projects being conducted by 20 universities and other organizations, as well as six collaborating apiaries.

“The goal of Healthy Hives 2020 has always been to identify measurable and tangible solutions to improve colony health through enhanced collaboration and communication,” said Daniel Schmehl, Pollinator Research Scientist with Crop Science, a division of Bayer. “The collaboration between Hive Tracks and Brandon is doing just that – bringing two innovative research projects together to identify a targeted approach for beekeepers to better manage their bees.”

https://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-new-technology-makes-commercial-beekeeping-more-efficient-profitable/?utm_source=Catch+The+Buzz&utm_campaign=039cf387e9-Catch_The_Buzz_4_29_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0272f190ab-039cf387e9-256252085

Nasa Soil Moisture Data Advances Global Crop Forecasts, And Can Help Beekeepers Predict Honey Crops, Or No Honey Crop

Bee Culture - Catch the Buzz    June 9, 2018

IMAGE: With data from NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite, researchers can monitor the amount of water in the soils to identify areas prone to droughts or floods. In this map…

Credits: Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory 

Data from the first NASA satellite mission dedicated to measuring the water content of soils is now being used operationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to monitor global croplands and make commodity forecasts.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive mission, or SMAP, launched in 2015 and has helped map the amount of water in soils worldwide. Now, with tools developed by a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, SMAP soil moisture data is being incorporated into the Crop Explorer website of the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, which reports on regional droughts, floods and crop forecasts. Crop Explorer is a clearinghouse for global agricultural growing conditions, such as soil moisture, temperature, precipitation, vegetation health and more. “There’s a lot of need for understanding, monitoring, and forecasting crops globally,” said John Bolten, research scientist at Goddard. “SMAP is NASA’s first satellite mission devoted to soil moisture, and this is a very straightforward approach to applying that data.”

Variations in global agricultural productivity have tremendous economic, social and humanitarian consequences. Among the users of this new SMAP data are USDA regional crop analysts who need accurate soil moisture information to better monitor and predict these variations.

“The USDA does crop forecasting activities from a global scale, and one of the main pieces of information for them is the amount of water in the soil,” said Iliana Mladenova, a research scientist at Goddard.

The USDA has used computer models that incorporate precipitation and temperature observations to indirectly calculate soil moisture. This approach, however, is prone to error in areas lacking high-quality, ground-based instrumentation. Now, Mladenova said, the agency is incorporating direct SMAP measurements of soil moisture into Crop Explorer. This allows the agriculture analysts to better predict where there could be too little, or too much, water in the soil to support crops.

These soil moisture conditions, along with tools to analyze the data, are also available on Google Earth Engine. There, researchers, nonprofits, resource managers and others can access the latest data as well as archived information.

“If you have better soil moisture data and information on anomalies, you’ll be able to predict, for example, the occurrence and development of drought,” Mladenova said.

The timing of the information matters as well, she added — if there’s a short dry period early in the season, it might not have an impact on the total crop yield, but if there’s a prolonged dry spell when the grain should be forming, the crop is less likely to recover.

With global coverage every three days, SMAP can provide the Crop Explorer tool with timely updates of the soil moisture conditions that are essential for assessments and forecasts of global crop productivity.

For more than a decade, the USDA Crop Explorer products have incorporated soil moisture data from satellites. It started with the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-E instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite, but that instrument stopped gathering data in late 2011. Soil moisture information from ESA’s (the European Space Agency) Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity mission is also being incorporated into some of the USDA’s products. This new, high quality input from SMAP will help fill critical gaps in soil moisture information.

http://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-nasa-soil-moisture-data-advances-global-crop-forecasts-and-can-help-beekeepers-predict-honey-crops-or-no-honey-crop/?utm_source=Catch+The+Buzz&utm_campaign=62e1d1041d-Catch_The_Buzz_4_29_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0272f190ab-62e1d1041d-256252085

Higher Temperatures In California Resulting In Early Season Bloom

Bee Culture - Catch The Buzz    By Mel Machado     February 12, 2018

Temperatures in Central Valley have been well above average; that means blooms along the Fresno County Blossom Trail are well ahead of schedule. Everywhere in Fresno county you can start to see blossoms in the orchards; in another week or so many of these trees will be in full bloom.

Apricots, oranges, and peaches are just a few of the valley’s signature crops that start out in this beautiful and delicate way. People from all over the world come to see the blossoms.

But due to the unseasonably warm start to February, the timing of this bloom is multiple week’s ahead of schedule, reported yourcentralvalley.com. On the surface this may not seem like a problem, but Stacie Grote with Simonian Farms says some growers are concerned: “If we were to get a frost in the next few weeks it could devastate the cherry crop.”

Cold temperatures are important during the winter so plants can go dormant, but when an orchard in full bloom is exposed to the cold, it could be an entirely different story. “There is still so much time for the weather to change; storms, frost. It’s not unheard of to have a frost in March. That’s making the farmers a little nervous,” said Grote.

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If you have anything at all to do with almond pollination, or simply want to watch and learn about the greatest pollination event in the Universe, tune into the web page below, published by Blue Diamond on a regular basis during the almond season. Mel Machado does a weekly overview of bloom stage and anything else of interest or “need to know” for bees, beekeepers and growers for the entire valley, from north to south, on a weekly basis. It is without doubt the best source of what’s happening available.

http://bluediamondgrowers.com/  Then click on Crop Progress Report

Below is the current release. February 5, 2018

Sonora green tip – Colusa County

Dry conditions have dominated the fall and winter of 2018. Rainfall totals have been running well behind seasonal norms and the wet winter experienced last year. This has presented several difficulties for growers in all areas of the Central Valley. Winter sanitation, the removal and destruction of mummy nuts remaining in the trees after harvest has been particularly hindered by the lack of rainfall. Following the significant losses caused by Navel Orange Worm, NOW, in the 2017 crop, growers have been focused on removing and destroying this prime NOW over-wintering site. However, moisture from rain and fog is required to improve mummy removal and growers have struggled to adequately clean their orchards.

Hives waiting to be moved into orchards – Stanislaus County

Many growers with water available also started irrigating their orchard during December in order to maintain adequate soil moisture levels. While rain in recent weeks has helped, rainfall totals and more importantly, snow pack levels in the Sierra Nevada watershed are far below seasonal norms. Fortunately, storage levels in the state’s reservoirs are in good shape. Growers are hopeful that releases from the reservoir system will provide adequate water for irrigation during the 2018 growing season.

Beekeepers have been moving hives into the orchards for several weeks and will continue to do so until the start of the bloom. One point of concern is the lack of native forage available to support the bees until the start of the bloom. The lack of rain has translated into a lack of weeds in and around the orchards. Flowers from these weed species, including Chickweed and Sheperdspurse normally provide a source of nourishment during the pre-bloom period. However, this year, the lack of early rain means that weeds have germinated later than usual and there is currently very little for bees to forage on prior to the bloom.

Currently, advance examples of the early-blooming Sonora are moving rapidly into the green tip and pink tip stages, driven by the above normal temperatures that have reached into the lower 70’s. As may be seen in the accompanying photo, advanced examples of the early-bloom Sonora are now presenting a few “rogue” flowers. As this report was being prepared Nonpareil and the various California type varieties are also following closely, moving swiftly into the green tip stage.

We are anticipating beginning regular bloom reports on or around Friday, February 9, 2018.

By Mel Machado

Photos by Mel Machado

Winter irrigation – San Joaquin County

Sonora pink tip – San Joaquin County

Lack of native forage – Western Stanislaus County

Dormant Monterey buds – Merced County

Northern Conditions and Bloom Status

Current weather at the National Weather Service

Central Conditions and Bloom Status

Current weather at the National Weather Service

Southern Conditions and Bloom Status

Current weather at the National Weather Service

http://www.beeculture.com/catch-buzz-higher-temperatures-california-resulting-early-season-bloom/

Wolves Change All Manner of Things, Even Rivers

CATCH THE BUZZ     By Kim Flottom     4/20/14

The Wolves ate the Elk that ate the plants that grew the flowers that fed the bees that made the berries that fed the bears that eat the Elk. But will the bears eat the bees? And what about those rivers?

Back in August last year THE BUZZ sent out this release from Oregon dealing with getting things in Yellowstone National Park back to where they were in the first place. It was the first, and I encourage you to read it first, but then, watch the link below to see what happens next. We, being at the top of the food chain can screw things up pretty good sometimes, but when we want, we can fix what we’ve damaged.

If we just leave nature alone, we will all improve our existence on this planet. Make sure you watch in full screen mode. And thanks John T. for sending this along.

http://www.trueactivist.com/gab_gallery/how-wolves-change-rivers/

Corvallis, Ore. – A new study suggests that the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park is beginning to bring back a key part of the diet of grizzly bears that has been missing for much of the past century – berries that help bears put on fat before going into hibernation.

It's one of the first reports to identify the interactions between these large, important predators, based on complex ecological processes. It was published today by scientists from Oregon State University and Washington State University in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

The researchers found that the level of berries consumed by Yellowstone grizzlies is significantly higher now that shrubs are starting to recover following the re-introduction of wolves, which have reduced over-browsing by elk herds. The berry bushes also produce flowers of value to pollinators like butterflies, insects and hummingbirds; food for other small and large mammals; and special benefits to birds.

The report said that berries may be sufficiently important to grizzly bear diet and health that they could be considered in legal disputes – as is white pine nut availability now - about whether or not to change the "threatened" status of grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act.

"Wild fruit is typically an important part of grizzly bear diet, especially in late summer when they are trying to gain weight as rapidly as possible before winter hibernation," said William Ripple, a professor in the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, and lead author on the article. "Berries are one part of a diverse food source that aids bear survival and reproduction, and at certain times of the year can be more than half their diet in many places in North America."

When wolves were removed from Yellowstone early in the 1900s, increased browsing by elk herds caused the demise of young aspen and willow trees – a favorite food – along with many berry-producing shrubs and tall, herbaceous plants. The recovery of those trees and other food sources since the re-introduction of wolves in the 1990s has had a profound impact on the Yellowstone ecosystem, researchers say, even though it's still in the very early stages.

"Studies like this also point to the need for an ecologically effective number of wolves," said co-author Robert Beschta, an OSU professor emeritus. "As we learn more about the cascading effects they have on ecosystems, the issue may be more than having just enough individual wolves so they can survive as a species. In some situations, we may wish to consider the numbers necessary to help control overbrowsing, allow tree and shrub recovery, and restore ecosystem health."

As wolves help reduce elk numbers in Yellowstone and allow tree and shrub recovery, researchers said, this improves the diet and health of grizzly bears. In turn, a healthy grizzly bear population provides a second avenue of control on wild ungulates, especially on newborns in the spring time.

Yellowstone has a wide variety of nutritious berries – serviceberry, chokecherry, buffaloberry, twinberry, huckleberry and others – that are highly palatable to bears. These shrubs are also eaten by elk and thus likely declined as elk populations grew over time. With the return of wolves, the new study found the percentage of fruit in grizzly bear scat in recent years almost doubled during August.

Because the abundant elk have been an important food for Yellowstone grizzly bears for the past half-century, the increased supply of berries may help offset the reduced availability of elk in the bears' diet in recent years. More research is needed regarding the effects of wolves on plants and animals consumed by grizzly bears.

There is precedent for high levels of ungulate herbivory causing problems for grizzly bears, who are omnivores that eat both plants and animals. Before going extinct in the American Southwest by the early 1900s, grizzly bear diets shifted toward livestock depredation, the report noted, because of lack of plant-based food caused by livestock overgrazing. And, in the absence of wolves, black bears went extinct on Anticosti Island in Canada after over-browsing of berry shrubs by introduced while-tailed deer.

Increases in berry production in Yellowstone may also provide a buffer against other ecosystem shifts, the researchers noted – whitebark pine nut production, a favored bear food, may be facing pressure from climate change. Grizzly bear survival declined during years of low nut production.

Livestock grazing in grizzly bear habitat adjacent to the national park, and bison herbivory in the park, likely also contribute to high foraging pressure on shrubs and forbs, the report said. In addition to eliminating wolf-livestock conflicts, retiring livestock allotments in the grizzly bear recovery zone adjacent to Yellowstone could benefit bears through increases in plant foods.

As wolves help reduce elk numbers in Yellowstone and allow tree and shrub recovery, researchers said, this improves the diet and health of grizzly bears. In turn, a healthy grizzly bear population provides a second avenue of control on wild ungulates, especially on newborns in the spring time.

Yellowstone has a wide variety of nutritious berries – serviceberry, chokecherry, buffaloberry, twinberry, huckleberry and others – that are highly palatable to bears. These shrubs are also eaten by elk and thus likely declined as elk populations grew over time. With the return of wolves, the new study found the percentage of fruit in grizzly bear scat in recent years almost doubled during August.

Because the abundant elk have been an important food for Yellowstone grizzly bears for the past half-century, the increased supply of berries may help offset the reduced availability of elk in the bears' diet in recent years. More research is needed regarding the effects of wolves on plants and animals consumed by grizzly bears.

There is precedent for high levels of ungulate herbivory causing problems for grizzly bears, who are omnivores that eat both plants and animals. Before going extinct in the American Southwest by the early 1900s, grizzly bear diets shifted toward livestock depredation, the report noted, because of lack of plant-based food caused by livestock overgrazing. And, in the absence of wolves, black bears went extinct on Anticosti Island in Canada after over-browsing of berry shrubs by introduced while-tailed deer.

Increases in berry production in Yellowstone may also provide a buffer against other ecosystem shifts, the researchers noted – whitebark pine nut production, a favored bear food, may be facing pressure from climate change. Grizzly bear survival declined during years of low nut production.

Livestock grazing in grizzly bear habitat adjacent to the national park, and bison herbivory in the park, likely also contribute to high foraging pressure on shrubs and forbs, the report said. In addition to eliminating wolf-livestock conflicts, retiring livestock allotments in the grizzly bear recovery zone adjacent to Yellowstone could benefit bears through increases in plant foods. 

This message brought to you by Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping, published by the A.I. Root Company. Find us at -TwitterFacebookBee Culture’s Blog.

Also available at http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2014.04.20.17.49.archive.html

Beekeepers and Disaster Assistance

(This message brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ: Kim Flottom,  Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping, published by the A.I. Root Company. Twitter.FacebookBee Culture’s Blog.)

 Alan Harman        4/8/14

Beekeepers and other agricultural producers can begin signing up for federal disaster assistance programs – some backdated to 2011 – beginning Tuesday, April 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the quick implementation of the programs, re-established and strengthened by the 2014 Farm Bill, has been a top priority for USDA.

“These programs will provide long-awaited disaster relief for many livestock producers who have endured significant financial hardship from weather-related disasters while the programs were expired and awaiting Congressional action,” Vilsack says.

Enrollment begins April 15 for producers with losses covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP).

ELAP assistance is provided for losses not covered by the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) and the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP). It was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill as a permanent program and provides retroactive authority to cover losses that occurred on or after Oct. 1, 2011.

TAP gives financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.

A total $125,000 annual limitation applies for payments under the LIP, LFP and the ELAP programs.

ELAP provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish for losses due to disease, adverse weather, or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires, not covered by LFP and LIP.

For beekeepers, it covers assistance for honeybee feed, colony and hive losses.

Total payments are capped at $20 million in a fiscal year.

The Direct and Counter-Cyclical Program and the Average Crop Revenue Election program are repealed and replaced by two new programs – Price Loss Coverage and Agricultural Risk Coverage.

The Marketing Assistance Loan program and sugar loans continue mostly unchanged.

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), USDA’s largest conservation program, continues through 2018 with an annually decreasing enrolled acreage cap. The contract portion of the Grassland Reserve Program enrollment has been merged with CRP. The Biomass Crop Assistance Program is extended and funded at $25 million a year.

The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program has been expanded to include protection at higher coverage levels, similar to buy-up provisions offered under the federal crop insurance program.

The Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), which covered losses through Sept. 30, 2011, is not reauthorized.

The USDA says the changes in the act give the Farm Service Agency (FSA) greater flexibility in determining eligibility including expanded definitions of eligible entities, years of experience for farm ownership loans, and allowing youth loan applicants from urban areas to access loans.

FSA’s popular microloan and down payment loan programs, important to furthering the administration’s objective of assisting beginning farmers, have been improved by raising loan limits and emphasizing beginning and socially disadvantaged producers.

The act also provides greater enhancements for lenders to participate in the guaranteed conservation loan program and eliminates term limits for the guaranteed operating program, allowing farmers and ranchers the opportunity for continued credit in cases where financial setbacks may have prevented them from obtain­ing commercial credit.

Adjusted gross income (AGI) provisions have been simplified and modified. Producers whose average AGI exceeds $900,000 are not eligible to receive payments or benefits from most programs administered by FSA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Previous AGI provisions distinguished between farm and non-farm AGI.

The total amount of payments received, directly and indirectly, by a person or legal entity (except joint ventures or general partnerships) for Price Loss Coverage, Agricultural Risk Coverage, marketing loan gains, and loan deficiency payments, may not exceed $125,000 a crop year.

Enrollment will begin April 15 at all local FSA offices and additional details on the types of information required for an ELAP application will be provided as part of the sign-up.

The USDA says to expedite applications, all producers who experienced losses are encouraged to collect records documenting these losses in preparation for the enrollment in these disaster assistance programs. Information on the types of records necessary can be provided by local FSA county offices. Producers also are encouraged to contact their county office ahead of time to schedule an appointment.