By Sarah Everhart
Numerous federal agencies have identified a significant loss of managed pollinators and bees in the last decade. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) list multiple factors associated with pollinator declines, including urbanization, pesticides, bee management practices, agricultural practices, and disease/parasites.
In response, President Obama issued a June 20, 2014 memorandum calling on federal agencies to increase and coordinate their efforts to improve bee health by developing an integrated strategy. The memorandum directed the EPA to engage states to develop managed pollinator protection plans (MP3) in order to mitigate the risk of pesticides to bees and other managed pollinators.
The primary purpose of a MP3 is to reduce pesticide exposure to bees through timely communication and coordination among key stakeholders, including beekeepers, growers, pesticide applicators, and landowners. All MP3s must include public stakeholder participation and allow the public to comment on draft plans before finalization. MP3s must include methods to minimize risk of pesticides to bees including Best Management Practices (BMPs) such as limiting applications to times when bees are less active. MP3s must also include a mechanism to measure the plan’s effectiveness and a process to periodically review and update the plan at least once every 3 years.
On January 20, 2015, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) held a statewide stakeholder summit meeting to gather input to draft a Maryland MP3. MDA has released a final report of the stakeholder summit meeting. MDA’s goal is to have a draft of the Maryland MP3 by April when it will be released for public review and comment.
Delaware unveiled its MP3 in mid-January, a document meant to serve as a Best Management Practice guide for the different stakeholder groups, including beekeepers, fruit and vegetable growers, and pesticide applicators. Delaware’s MP3 includes strategies to increase the quantity and quality of pollinator forage on private and public lands. By providing education and improved communication between the stakeholders, Delaware’s plan intends to increase awareness of the issues faced by all groups involved in agricultural production. Pollinated crops in Delaware include watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, cantaloupes, apples, blueberries, cranberries, squash, and pumpkins.
Other states, such as the ones below, have already adopted MP3:
The EPA will monitor the success of MP3s in mitigating risk to bees and determine whether further regulatory action is warranted. The EPA will also continue to conduct chemical-specific risk assessment for bees and will consider additional mitigation as needed.