Explaining Massachusetts’ Attempt to Protect Bees, but Farmers and Farm Bureau Cannot Support Knee-Jerk Reactions Not Backed By Scientific Data

Ed Davidian, President, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation


The Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation has a long history of backing and lobbying for bills that are based on science and use a refined review process to come to consensus.

Farm Bureau does not support H.2113, an act to protect Massachusetts pollinators. But that doesn’t mean the organization does not support beekeepers.

The bill, as written, restricts the use of neonicotinoids, a commonly used pesticide, without proper scientific review. Furthermore, research has been inconclusive on bee kills. In fact, the USDA states there are multiple causes of bee death with mites being the most serious problem. There are also viruses and poor nutrition.

Many of these issues can be combated with education and training for novice and hobby beekeepers.

However, farmers continue to come under attack in Massachusetts for their use of neonicotinoids. It is important to note that farmers go through numerous hours of testing and training on how to use pesticides, including neonics. This education helps farmers limit the use of pesticides and creates a forum for them to discuss record keeping.

For example, during these trainings, wind speed and other contributing factors to drift are discussed. Apps and other record-keeping systems have been invented to help farmers track this information.

In addition, inputs and expenses for farmers are only increasing. When farmers do apply pesticides, herbicides or any input on their land, they want that input to be applied to the land, not the surrounding areas.

This training and education is critical to ensuring farmers are making correct applications of pesticides.

Massachusetts Farm Bureau supports the state holding an individual review on neonicotinoids at the Pesticide Board Subcommittee level.

This subcommittee is the group that makes registration decisions on pesticides and can vote to limit, restrict or ban pesticides. Reviews are science-based and done by staff of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Health and/or the Department of Environmental Protection. These groups look at the risk of pesticides, the use patterns and alternatives to those products under review.

This is important as neonicotinoids can be made much safer for applicators who apply the product and for the environment, including birds and wildlife. This review process would examine the whole picture to see how to improve it for everyone.

Massachusetts farmers need access to healthy pollinators, including bee colonies, to pollinate their crops every spring. Farm Bureau and every farmer in the state supports the beekeeping community. However, farmers and Farm Bureau cannot support knee-jerk reactions that are not backed by scientific data and a refined review process.

As such, this organization supports a thorough investigation into bee death, looking at every angle and not just a quick fix.

In addition to scientific reviews of neonicotinoids, education on how to manage mites and nutrition of bees for novice and hobbyist beekeepers have the potential to pay dividends in the future.

For more information, visit www.mfbf.net.