“Many factors are involved,” Parker said. Still, the European Union has banned use of several neonicotinoid seed treatments and advocacy groups have intensified demands for greater restrictions in the United States.

“A Florida grower was fined for a bee kill.”

Parker said other efforts include a varroa summit.

He also said the Council’s stance is that solutions should be based on local conditions. “One solution will not fit every area of the country. Spraying only at night, for instance, will not work in areas with small fields and woodlands.”

Cooperation between the diverse groups will be critical, he added. North Dakota has put together a plan, with beekeepers and producers working together. Florida growers and beekeeper are working on a draft; Mississippi has also begun efforts to bring beekeepers and producers together.

“It is important for the U.S. cotton industry to understand that the debate over pollinator protection and the use of crop protection materials is at the forefront of discussions among lawmakers and regulatory officials,” he said.

Andy LaVigne, President and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), said seed treatment technology has become a popular practice for farmers. “But it has raised some challenges in regard to pollinators.

“EPA liked seed treatment technology because of environmental and human health benefits. Now, stewardship is critical for all aspects of seed applied technology. We have to address the bee/pollinator health and raise awareness in the farm community.”

He said emphasizing stewardship may delay some restrictions on products. “We’re working across the board with key associations.” Those include the Cotton Council, National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association and others. The Seed Trade Association is also taking the message to key conferences, including the Beltwide Cotton Conferences and the Commodity Classic. Curriculum development and building international cooperation are also part of ASTA’s agenda.

An association’s website, www.seed-treatment-guide.com, offers information on multiple efforts and opportunities for producers, associations and consultants to become more aware of issues and action steps. Tools include brochures and videos.
“We will do videos for specific crops, including cotton. We’re also working with equipment manufacturers to look at planters to reduce dust. Proper storage and handling are other important issues.

“Our goal,” LaVigne said, “is to convince EPA not to go heavy-handed to restrict seed treatments. We hope to prevent additional burdens on growers.”

Parker said a lot of the science about bee health is not known. “A lot of studies are underway and so far EPA has stuck with the science. But they are under a lot of political pressure to stop or restrict application ‘in case it could be the problem.’”


Also of interest:

Stress may contribute to poor bee health

Casting doubt on neonicotinoid guilt

Pollinators next big battleground for ag pesticides