White House Announces Federal Strategy to Reverse Honey Bee Decline

Jun 21, 2014 08:18 AM EDT | Matt Mercuro

The White House has announced a new federal strategy to reverse a rapid decline in the number of honey bees and other pollinators in the U.S. that threatens the development of crops worth billions of dollars.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will give $8 million in funding to farmers and ranchers in five states who establish new habitats for honey bee populations, as part of the plan, according to Reuters.

"Given the breadth, severity, and persistence of pollinator losses, it is critical to expand federal efforts and take new steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels," said President Obama in a statement. "These steps should include the development of new public-private partnerships and increased citizen engagement."

The contribution of native wild pollinators, like bumble bees, were valued at $9 billion back in 2009.

An annual report from USDA and the "Bee Informed Partnership," an industry group, released in May, estimated that total losses of managed honey bee colonies was 23 percent over the winter of 2013-14.

"Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States," the White House said in a statement according to Reuters.

Recently bees have been dying at a rate the U.S. government says is economically unsustainable.

Honey bees are important because they pollinate plants that help produce a quarter of the food consumed by Americans today, like watermelons, beans, and apples.

Almond crops are almost exclusively pollinated by honey bees, according to Reuters.

"The problem is serious, and poses a significant challenge that needs to be addressed to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems," the White House said, according to Reuters.

Honey bee populations are being killed off due to factors like mite infestations and diseases, loss of genetic diversity, a loss of natural forage and inadequate diets, and exposure to certain pesticides.

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