Budget cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will now further add to the plight of the honey bee here in the United States. On Saturday, it was announced that the USDA has “suspended data collection for its annual Honey Bee Colonies report.” Bee advocates are already hitting the panic button, as this is a key tool used by the industry to measure honey bee populations.
The survey, while now considered extremely important, has only actually been in effect since 2015. The report gathers bee populations throughout the country every quarter, monitoring declines as well as the reasons for the decline, such as colony collapse disorder. Were it not for this survey, most agree environmentalists would have not made such an issue over the problems the honey bee is facing.
The USDA posted a notice regarding the survey suspension, stating, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will not collect quarterly data this July for the annual Honey Bee Colonies report, which is still scheduled for release Aug. 1 at 3 p.m. ET. The report will contain data from Jan. 1, 2018 to April 1, 2019. The Honey Bee Colonies report allows the USDA, beekeepers, and other interested parties to compare quarterly losses, additions, and movements and to analyze the data on a state-by-state basis.
“Before deciding to suspend data collection, NASS reviewed its estimating programs against mission- and user-based criteria as well as the amount of time remaining in the fiscal year to meet its budget and program requirements while maintaining the strongest data in service to U.S. agriculture. The decision to suspend data collection was not made lightly but was necessary given available fiscal and program resources. NASS will continue to review its federal agricultural statistical programs using the same criteria to ensure timely, accurate, and useful statistics.”
The loss of this data is not being received well by bee advocates. Rebecca Boehm, an economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, stated, “This is yet another example of the Trump administration systematically undermining federal research on food safety, farm productivity, and the public interest writ large.” As the only survey being overseen by the federal government, the outrage is understandable.
This, sadly, is not the only tool that has been impacted by budget cuts. In addition to this survey, the Cost of Pollination Survey and the Honey Survey have also been suspended or scaled back due to budgetary constraints. Even if the surveys are resumed, there is the fear that much-needed data will be forever lost. University of Maryland entomologist Dennis vanEngelsdorp, stated, “The value of all these surveys is its continuous use over time so you can compare trend lines.”
Photo By alessandrozocc