POLLINATOR RELEVANT LEGISLATION MN 2017 SESSION
What's going on now?
As of the end of April, we're about a month from the end of the legislative session. Most bills are at the conference committee stage- the House and Senate are working on making their versions of bills match before they go to the Governor's desk.
In spite of widespread concern about pollinators, not a single bill in the MN Senate has been passed to protect pollinators from pesticides and safeguard their vital role in our food system. In the MN House, there some funding allocated to pollinator programming, though not to the Minnesota Department of Ag as mentioned below, but to the University for pollinator habitat research.
Even more concerning, new language in the Senate could undermine MDA’s fundamental pesticide enforcement authority and ability to protect the health and livelihoods of communities across the state.
Label compliance. Unless explicitly required by the FIFRA [Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act], the [MDA] commissioner must not require an applicator to demonstrate label compliance or need prior to applying a pesticide.
Apart from injecting confusion into MDA’s authority to ensure pesticide label compliance, this language also attacks a key component of MDA’s proposed plan for addressing harms to pollinators by eliminating MDA’s existing authority to require demonstration of need before an applicator uses a pesticide — thereby undermining protections for honey bees and other pollinators that contribute over $33 million to the state economy each year.
We're still giving feedback to our legislators!
- Support MDA’s proposals to create a treated seed program and a pollinator protection account.
- Stop proposals that would gut MDA’s authority to make sure that pesticides are used safely and according to their label.
- If legislators fail to act on this issue this session, please make sure that pollinators get the attention they deserve next year.
Contact your legislators (learn who and how here) and voice your concern for pollinator health. Contact Erin if you're interested in other ways to help. (612.245.6384, firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture released the findings and recommendations of their Neonic Review last August, proposing strong steps to protect MN pollinators and support MN farmers.
Two of the MDA's recommendations require our Legislature to approve them. This legislative session was an incredible opportunity. For the most part we passed it up.
We're not done yet though and need your help. Contact the Governor!
What was our Opportunity?
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture spent the last 2 years summarizing the science of neonicotinoids and their impact on bees, releasing their report, Review of Neonicotinoid Use, Registration, and Insect Pollinator Impacts in Minnesota at the State Fair last August. They concluded that neonics are toxic to pollinators when applied according to label and recommended 8 action steps they'll be taking, as the agency that regulates pesticides, to protect pollinators. View their recommendations here. Governor Dayton released Executive Order 16.07 at the same time as the MDA's report, calling our other state agencies to continue and increase their pollinator protection efforts.
The MDA's Review demonstrates the acute and sub-lethal toxicities neonics have on pollinator populations. (Check out the Xerces Society's Report: How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees for another great summary of the science.) In our meetings with legislators this year, we're not hearing the same debate about the science as we've heard in the past. THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE SHIFT IN NARRATIVE- our opposition is no longer successful at framing the issue as a disagreement of the science.
Farmers are in an unenviable spot- a pesticide they use frequently is one that is toxic to pollinators. The MDA recognizes that, and has proposed solutions to protect pollinators and farmer livelihoods.
1. Create a treated seed program (in HF 1717, SF1674)
One of the main ways we use neonics is as seed coatings- farmers will buy seeds with pesticides already applied to them. Currently, because of a national loophole, these seed coating don't officially count as "pesticide applications" and aren't tracked as such. That means though neonics are water soluble and move through the ecosystem, we're not able to know the actual amount bees and other pollinators are exposed to. These aren't small numbers of seeds- about 94% of the corn we grow in the county is sold to farmers with neonic coating, as are 1/3-1/2 of MN soybeans.
In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that for soybeans, "neonicotinoid seed treatments likely provide $0 benefit to growers." They don't cost $0 though- soybean farmers are paying for seed coatings that are ineffective.
Farmers are compromised in their ability to be the stewards they want to be with little evidence of benefits to their yields or wallets.
We need to protect pollinators and support farmers, and Creating a Treated Seed Program would do just that, allowing Minnesota to track and regulate seed treatments as we do all other pesticide uses, and fund research on the efficacy of seed treatments.
Efforts to add language to Create a Treated Seed Program back into our Ag Policy Omnibus bill, HF 1717/SF1674, failed, in spite of testimony from beekeepers and farmers. This program would support farmers and allow us to track seed treatments in Minnesota, as we do all other pesticide uses. Discussion was rich in both committees- check out audio from the Senate meeting here. *The house audio not up yet, but should be here soon.
2. create a pollinator account within MDa
A specified pollinator account would better fund MDA's activities to reduce impacts from pesticides on pollinators through education, research and stewardship materials. The Pollinator Protection Account is included in Governor Dayton's budget; read it here. Initial funding would be allocated from the General Fund with $250,000 in fee revenue charged to pesticide registrants- not farmers or seed dealers.
Both recommendations are common sense next steps to protect our critical pollinators.
Contact your legislators, and the members of Senate and House Ag Committees, to voice your support for these pollinator protections.
Roadside wildflowers are often the only food available for hungry bees.
*Update 3.3.17. SF218 was voted on in the Senate on 3.2.17 and passed. The final bill language gives everyone the ok for 2017 to manage roadsides as they want to, to mow or not mow without a permit for this year. That ends in April 2018. This compromise gives us a year to figure out how best to manage our roadsides. The House version will likely be voted on on the House Floor sometime soon. Check back for more detail.
With beekeeper loses in Minnesota over 50% in 2014-15 and national honey production down 12% from 2015, bees are struggling. We know the pesticides and parasites/ disease are drivers of the decline. Habitat is also a key piece- without flowers, bees can't eat. In other states, roadsides are full of flowers and provide this key food. In MN that's not the case.
Last year, we were working on adding some teeth to our existing mowing law- though it's currently illegal to mow roadsides before August 1st it isn’t currently enforced. This session, we've seen an amendment to the current bill language that would allow anyone to be able to mow at any time, compromising existing habitat and spreading invasive weed seed like Palmer Amaranth.
Enforcing this existing law would mean that the flowers that are in roadsides would be there as nectar and pollen sources until August- not as long as hungry bees need them to be but a good first step for our state.
ACTION ALERT! Please contact Governor Dayton and tell him to stay strong in protecting pollinators.
Policy makers, while they hear from special interests every day, pay attention to constituent voices. We elected them; let them know you care! Find out who represents you and how to contact them here.
Our friends at the Pesticide Action Network put together these factsheets on Supporting Farmers and Protecting Pollinators this session. Click here for their factsheet for Legislators and here for their factsheet for Organizers.
Search here to see everything authored this session (You can search by bill number or keyword search for each chamber.) Not in Minnesota? Your state likely had a searchable database of bills on its legislative website.
Interested in helping Pollinate Minnesota?
Get involved in the campaign! We'll keep you informed about issues facing pollinator health, action steps that are happening statewide, and ways you can Pollinate Minnesota. To make a tax-deductible donation to Pollinate Minnesota, click here.