According to Parker, one of the challenges of this proposal is that some of these crops are indeterminately blooming crops. In that scenario, those crop protection products would not be accessible to producers during the growing season for an indeterminate amount of time.
The second part of EPA’s proposal concerned crops, like cotton, that are not under contract for bee pollination services. The EPA recognized that many states have started working on pollinator protection plans, bringing beekeepers and producers to the table to communicate on how to avoid exposure risk. The EPA says they will not take any action regarding those crops at this time, instead monitoring the state plans to see how successful they turn out. The EPA could take action later on, if they determine the state plans are not working.
Ultimately, Parker and the National Cotton Council are pleased with the President’s strategy.
“I think it’s a win for everyone,” Parker said. “One of the big things about the White House Pollinator Task Force is that they really looked at the science, at all the evidence, and they clearly came back and said ‘There are many things that are going on, not just pesticides, and the focus has to be much broader to have any impact.’”
Parker stresses that he and others at the National Cotton Council are still analyzing the potential impact of the President’s pollinator strategy and the EPA response. Because there are so many agencies taking part, the ultimate impact of the policy is far ranging and as yet unknown.
Still, the overall tone of the government’s strategy is one that is promising for agriculture.
“I think that the reports carry a more fair picture than a lot of the rhetoric we were hearing in the media before these were released,” Parker stated.
The third and final bullet point on the White House strategy release is a significant one. The restoration or enhancement of seven million acres of land for pollinator use will provide a much-needed ease on the strain between cotton producers and the commercial beekeeper community.
In many parts of the Cotton Belt, producers have allowed beekeepers to utilize their farmlands for foraging purposes, even though the pollinators provide no benefit to cotton production. In keeping with the adage “No good deed goes unpunished,” those producers then came under fire for their pesticide practices when honeybee populations began to decline.
Parker and others in the agriculture community had hoped the White House strategy would open up more acreage to commercial and wild bee populations, thereby taking them off of those farms altogether.
“When you’re talking about the Department of Defense or the Department of the Interior, they have a lot of federal lands,” Parker says. “One thing they’ll look at is improving the bee habitat on federal lands and hopefully opening up those lands so that beekeepers can utilize them and be able to have bees in non-agricultural areas.”