Merkley to Float Pollinator Conservation Bill

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By David Schultz

June 23 — Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) plans to introduce a bill that would address a decline in numbers among bees and other pollinating insects by providing financial incentives to farmers who avoid using certain pesticides.

The bill, which Merkley's office unveiled June 23, would allow the Department of Agriculture to spend up to $30 million a year on, among other items, incentives for farmers who adopt conservation plans that include limiting their use of “pollinator-toxic insecticides and herbicides.” It is currently in “discussion draft” form and will be formally introduced later this year, according to a statement from Merkley.

The bill also would set up streams of funding for pollinator research and would require the department to conduct a survey of how many acres have been set aside for pollinator habitat restoration.

“It’s easy to forget about the critical role pollinators play in our food systems,” Merkley said. “But if we’re not careful, we will only realize their importance when it’s too late.”

A similar Democratic bill introduced in the House ( H.R. 1284) would go further by banning the use of several insecticides from the neonicotinoid chemical class, which is believed to contribute to mass die-offs of bee colonies. The House bill, spearheaded by Reps. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), has stalled in committee since it was introduced early last year, with no indication it will come up for a hearing during this session of Congress.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Schultz in Washington at dschultz@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

A draft copy of Merkley's bill is available at http://src.bna.com/gca.

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