Senator Says USDA Wrongly Halted Research Into Honeybees

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ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to stop collecting data on bee colonies in places like Rochester.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer holds a jar of honey at a press conference in Tinker Nature Park in Henrietta on Wednesday. Credit Noelle E. C. Evans / WXXI News

The New York senator said the USDA’s decision is an unwelcome change during a critical time for the tiny pollinators.

“At this time, when our bees are dying off, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has done a very quiet but very dumb thing. They’ve stopped collecting critical scientific data on honeybees in the Rochester area,” Schumer said.

U.S. beekeepers lost nearly 40% of their honeybee colonies last winter according to a Bee Informed Partnership’s survey released in June. It is the largest reported loss on record. Schumer said that the data is essential for beekeepers and farmers in the area who rely on pollinators for their crops.  “This is one of the prime agricultural areas not just of New York state but of the country,” Schumer said.

“Close to a billion dollars of agricultural products are sold each year.” Most of that revenue comes from Genesee County as well as Wayne, Ontario, Orleans, and Monroe counties. In total, the region provides over $890 million in agricultural products like apples, fruits and vegetables as well as honey.

Bees swarm around a beehive at Tinker Nature Park in Henrietta. CREDIT NOELLE E. C. EVANS / WXXI NEWS

The senator said he plans to talk to the USDA secretary, and if necessary, to address the matter in the federal budget this September.

“We need to know why our bees are dying off, and without collecting information, we’ll never know,” he said. “And if we run out of bees, the whole world is in crisis.”