In MN Department of Agriculture Pollinators Summit free & open to the public on Friday, February 12 and Summits, stakeholders & interest groups: On the peculiar closing of the MDA pollinators summit, we posted about Friday's gathering at the Wellstone Center on the west side of St. Paul.
In anticipation of the Pollinators Summit, state representative Rick Hansen reviews the progress Minnesota has made to protect bees and other pollinators in It's time for action on Minnesota's pollinators, commentary in the Star Tribune:
Minnesota is a national leader in wildlife habitat protection. Recently, that has included steps to stem the rapid decline of pollinators, such as monarch butterflies and honeybees. . .
Minnesota already has focused on reversing poor habitat and poor nutrition for pollinators. We have established an independent University of Minnesota research facility to look at all sources of pollinator decline, including research on parasites and diseases. . . .
Some positive steps in stemming the use of insecticides that are lethal to pollinators have been made because of consumer demand. Backyard gardeners buying plants now have the peace of mind that they’re not killing pollinators, because local and national retailers have begun phasing out plants treated with these pesticides. Several cities, a school district and Ramsey County have passed initiatives prohibiting the public purchase and use of neonics on their public land.
But when it comes to the true problem — agricultural pesticide use — the farm chemical industry has fought back at every turn.
Hansen outlines the scope of that problem, then recommends five steps for protecting pollinators:
• Stop using neonics on state lands. There is no reason neonic-treated seeds or plants should be planted on state lands, especially if those public lands are meant to protect, restore, and enhance water and wildlife.
• Farmers deserve a choice. When registering pesticides, the state Agriculture Department must insist that these large, multinational agricultural/chemical companies offer farmers an untreated seed option.
• Create pollinator-safe zones. To protect pollinating bees, bugs and butterflies from lethal drift, the Agriculture Department should follow the lead of other states and use its authority to place protective limits on where pollinator-lethal pesticides can be sprayed.
• Start looking to determine full effects and impacts of the new chemistry. Testing and analyzing food and water for neonics is important, because we need to better understand the risk neonics pose to people and the environment. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also should begin testing wildlife for neonics so we know about any unintended consequences.
• Create protected habitat and corridors. Honeybees are one of many pollinators. If native pollinators are to make a comeback and thrive, then we need protected habitat and corridors that are both free of pollinator-lethal pesticides and have ample flowers from spring through fall.
Many people are asking for a ban on neonics. An alternative is requiring the responsible use of pollinator-lethal insecticides. With media campaigns, lobbying and political contributions, big chemical companies are following in the footsteps of Big Tobacco by denying that there is a problem. Minnesotans are problem-solvers. We stood up to Big Tobacco; we can stand up to Big Chemical. Our hopes are high that we will.
Prior to his election to the Minnesota House in 2004, Hansen managed the pesticide application licensing program at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Raised on a farm, Hansen earned a bachelor's degree Biology at Upper Iowa University and his master's in Soil Management at Iowa State University. He also served as a Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District commissioner.
The minority lead on the Minnesota House and the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee, he continues to farm and conserve just over 640 acres in Fillmore and Freeborn Counties. He owns Harmony Cedar, a small business that sells furniture handcrafted by his Amish neighbors in the Harmony area.
Photo: Illustration of some native bees.
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