Casey Renews Call for USDA to Temporarily Suspend Importation of Australian Honeybees

WASHINGTON, DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) reiterated his call for the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to temporarily suspend the importation of Australian honeybees into the United States.  In September, Senator Casey made a similar request to Mike Johanns, the former Secretary of Agriculture who abruptly resigned last month.  

“I applaud the commitment of the USDA to make CCD research a continued priority. However, until a definite determination on the cause of CCD can be made, I believe we owe it to our agricultural community and U.S. consumers to take every possible step to mitigate the potential for additional losses due to CCD,” Casey wrote.

Recently, a team of scientists led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Pennsylvania State University and Columbia University uncovered a possible link between colony collapse disorder (CCD), Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV) and the importation of honeybees from Australia. 

In recent months, there has been an estimated loss of over 25 percent of the nation’s honeybee population—a decrease the USDA has termed ‘colony collapse disorder.’ In Pennsylvania alone, over $50 million worth of fruit and vegetable production can be directly attributed to honeybees.  

In the letter, Casey asked Acting Secretary Conner for “(1) a temporary suspension on the importation of Australian honey bees until it can be determined that these bees are not linked to CCD, and (2) implementation of measures, such as quarantines and increased testing, that can mitigate the effects of the Australian honey bee colonies already present in the United States.”

Given the USDA’s slow response to this point, Senator Casey also requested a response to his letter by no later than November 9, 2007.  

One of Senator Casey’s top priorities in the 2007 Farm Bill is research into the growing problem of Colony Collapse Disorder.  Yesterday the Senate Agriculture Committee authorized for a $20 million a year study into the growing problem of CCD.

In June, Senator Casey introduced the Pollinator Protection Act which would authorize $89 million in federal funding for research and grant programs at the USDA over five years for work related to maintaining and protecting our bee and native pollinator populations.  Experts estimate crops nationwide that depend on a healthy honey and native bee population to be valued near $15 billion.

In May, Senator Casey joined 39 of his Senate colleagues and wrote to the USDA encouraging the agency to take steps to increase colony collapse disorder research.  This legislation would provide USDA with the support and resources to do so on a sustained basis.

 

Full text of the letter is included:

 

Dear Secretary Conner:

Nearly seven weeks ago I sent a letter to former Secretary Johanns regarding my concerns over the possible link between colony collapse disorder (CCD) and the importation of honeybees from Australia. That letter sought consideration of two requests: (1) a temporary suspension on the importation of Australian honey bees until it can be determined that these bees are not linked to CCD, and (2) implementation of measures, such as quarantines and increased testing, that can mitigate the effects of the Australian honey bee colonies already present in the United States.

To date, my office has received no response to this request. This delay in response is of serious concern to me, as the beginning of the importation season of Australian queen bees into the United States is quite literally weeks away. With approximately 130 crops and $15 billion in annual U.S. farm crop value relying on pollination, and the potential for CCD to cause $75 billion in economic damage if left unchecked, we cannot afford any further delay on making this decision.

As you know, in September, a team of scientists led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Pennsylvania State University, and Columbia University found an association between CCD in honey bees and the Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV). The research team study, published online by the journal Science, also uncovered a possible link between CCD, IAPV, and the importation of honeybees from Australia.

CCD has dramatically affected the number of commercial honeybee colonies in the United States. Commercial beekeepers in more than 22 states, including Pennsylvania, have reported accelerated losses of up to 50 to 90 percent of their honeybee colonies due to CCD. If the current decline continues, American food security, particularly for fruits and vegetables, could be compromised by increased prices and decreased production. As a result, the United States could be forced to rely more heavily on imported foods.

I applaud the commitment of the USDA to make CCD research a continued priority. However, until a definite determination on the cause of CCD can be made, I believe we owe it to our agricultural community and U.S. consumers to take every possible step to mitigate the potential for additional losses due to CCD. Because of the time sensitive nature of this matter, I am requesting a response to this letter by no later than two weeks from today, November 9, 2007.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

 

###

Press Contact

Kendra Barkoff (202) 228-6367