ALBANY — The Departments of Agriculture and Markets (Ag & Mkts) and Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced new actions to protect New York’s pollinator population. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are critical to both the state’s environment and agricultural economy, providing approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York each year. The State commemorated these steps during National Pollinator Week (June 18-24) with a proclamation issued by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, affirming New York’s commitment to promoting the health and recovery of pollinators.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Through Governor Cuomo’s leadership and the collaboration with our fellow state agencies, stakeholders and top research institutions, New York is leading the efforts to protect pollinators. Pollinators provide significant contributions to our agricultural industry and our food supply and by researching threats and providing new opportunities to monitor for disease, we can better safeguard their health.”
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Governor Cuomo is a champion of protecting the state’s pollinator species, and through the state’s Pollinator Protection Plan, we are making important strides to protect our native and domestic pollinators from environmental threats. We encourage all New Yorkers to help with our efforts by reducing pesticide use and creating good pollinator habitat in their own backyards, and look forward to working with the Department of Agriculture and Markets and our other partners to continue our leading pollinator protection efforts.”
State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “Pollinators are a significant component to having a strong and healthy environment and should continue to be safeguarded. I applaud Governor Cuomo and our partners across the State for their efforts to protect pollinator populations and continuing to spread the message about the impact pollinators have on everyday life.”
In 2016, New York State released a Pollinator Protection Plan to guide actions by state agencies and the public to protect and promote the recovery of a declining pollinator population. Losses were noted to be caused by a combination of factors such as poor nutrition, loss of foraging habitat, parasites, pesticides, pathogens, lack of genetic diversity and poor land management practices. New actions were noted as part of the State’s update to the Plan, found here.
With a third round of funding from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), allocated in the NYS 2018-19 Budget to implement the Pollinator Protection Plan, Cornell University is continuing, this year, its multi-year effort in support of pollinator health, focusing on honey bees. Cornell’s Tech Team for beekeepers is expanding its outreach and engaging with additional beekeepers across the State. This team of experts will be sampling hives for pests, such as varroa mites, and other diseases, and will work with beekeepers one-on-one to recommend best management practices and help resolve any issues impacting hive health.
To support the work of the Tech Team, Ag & Mkts will take an innovative approach to the necessary seasonal inspections of hive health by developing a network of State “rapid responders,” who will assist beekeepers in sampling and tracing disease and pests. The Department, in coordination with Cornell University and USDA, will provide training to veterinarians and horticultural inspectors in each region of the State in pollinator health.
Cornell University will also further research its preliminary findings related to pesticide risks to honey bees during pollination. A new research project will investigate the possible synergistic effects of commonly used pesticides and fungicides to determine which pesticide-fungicide combinations may be most harmful to honey bees. Ongoing research involving the health of wild pollinators, and in particular, bumble bees, will continue.
Finally, in response to Cornell’s preliminary findings that the pesticides with the greatest exposure risk to honey bees during pollination are thiamethoxam (neonicotinoid, oral exposure) and cyfluthrin (contact exposure), Cornell will conduct a feasibility study to evaluate further regulation of these two registered products.
Kathryn J. Boor, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, said, “Pollinator health is inextricably tied to New York’s agricultural health. Protecting the diverse pollinator populations is crucial to safeguarding our food supply and our farmers who rely on their services. Cornell CALS is pleased to contribute cutting-edge science as we work to fully understand the reasons behind pollinator decline and provide outreach to commercial and hobbyist honey beekeepers in the state to mitigate both native and honey bee pollinator losses.”
State agencies have been working closely to implement new and enhance existing actions to promote the health and recovery of pollinators in New York State as well. Agencies are continuing to reduce their use of pesticides and herbicides that could be harmful to pollinators, planting and restoring pollinator habitats in key areas across the State, increasing pest management efforts and invasive species removal projects, and developing educational materials to raise awareness about the importance of pollinators and how to protect them. To learn more about the these efforts, visit DEC’s website for information on the importance of pollinators to our environment and how homeowners can use organic alternatives to pesticides.
To promote New York’s honey industry, Ag & Mkts is also creating standards to include New York-produced honey in the New York State Grown & Certified program. The program markets its local farmers and producers who adhere to food safety and environmental sustainability standards. So far, the program helps market the State’s dairy, fruit and vegetable, beef, maple, shellfish, and Christmas tree industries.
Pollinators contribute substantially to the State’s economy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York and add $29 billion in value to crop production nationally each year. New York’s ability to produce crops such as apples, grapes, cherries, onions, pumpkins and cauliflower relies heavily on the presence of pollinators.
–NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
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