Pollinator plan to help bees; feed directive takes effect Jan. 1

Bees are essential to pollinating crops and have been on the decline for decades. Honeybee losses continue to afflict U.S. beekeepers and agriculture producers and can happen for numerous reasons. One piece of that puzzle is pesticide use, according to Liza Fleeson Trossbach, program manager for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Pesticide Services.

Trossbach shared information about the agency’s Virginia State Managed Pollinator Protection Plan on Nov. 29 at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation 2016 Annual Convention.

As the state’s lead agency for pesticide regulation, VDACS is laying the framework for the plan, which is part of a national effort to help reverse pollinator losses and restore pollinator populations.

Agencies have been directed to come up with a strategy to address issues that pollinators are facing, Trossbach said.

The plan, which is voluntary, has been a work in progress since October 2015. The interim report will be unveiled in spring 2017.

 Trossbach emphasized that pesticides are “safe to use, and the label is the law. That’s always been the case.” She added that pollinator loss is a big umbrella and that pesticides and the Pollinator Protection Plan are just one element under it.

The plan was developed by holding seven meetings around the state with farmers, beekeepers and industry professionals who discussed ways to further protect pollinators. Trossbach said 450 people have been involved in the plan. They include landowners, researchers and Virginia Cooperative Extension professionals. VDACS drafted a plan based on their input and on written comments submitted to that agency.

“It’s being reviewed and re-reviewed, and once the plan is finalized we will do outreach efforts. We want this plan to work for all and help reduce pesticide risk to pollinators.”

Dr. Bruce Bowman, field veterinarian for VDACS Veterinary Services, discussed a directive that is not voluntary—the Veterinary Feed Directive.

Starting Jan. 1, 2017, livestock producers won’t be able to use feed containing antibiotics without a veterinary feed directive—a written document between a farmer, a veterinarian and a feed mill. It allows a farmer to buy and use animal feed containing an approved animal antibiotic to treat an animal.

Producers must obtain a directive from their veterinarians, then send or take the document to a feed manufacturer or supplier to buy the feed.

“You can wish it will go away because we are farmers, and we really don’t like more regulation,” Bowman said. “The thing to know is that this will affect antibiotics in feed only.”

Bowman said the feed directive was created because the Food and Drug Administration listened to consumer groups and Congress about their concerns over antibiotics in animal feed.

“Consumers are talking about antibiotics more than ever,” he said. “The general public believes food is full of antibiotics.”

With 126,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to supporting Virginia’s agriculture industry and preserving the Virginia way of life. View more convention news as it becomes available at VaFarmBureau.org/NewsVideo/ConventionNewsroom.aspx, or get updates via Twitter (@vafbnews).

Contact Greg Hicks, VFBF vice president of communications, at 804-290-1139.

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