What's New in Michigan Organic Ag 

April 14-26, 2007

1.    Honeybee colonies face depletion

2.   FARM BILL UPDATE with Michigan contact information of your reps!

3.   Select Michigan Products

4.   Nature and Nurture LLC, a local organic landscape gardening
business is looking to fill two full time positions and one part-time

5.    Nature and Nurture LLC, a local organic landscape gardening
business is looking to fill two full time positions and one part-time

6.   Market Farm Forms


Honeybee colonies face depletion

Tue, Apr 24, 2007




Honeybees are dying in the millions from coast to coast. 

A mysterious and massive disappearance of honey bees is making
headlines. At least 24 states from the East Coast to the West Coast are
reporting losses, ranging from 50 to 80 percent. 

The situation is serious enough for scientists to think about the
disappearance of a species and for Congress to hold a special hearing.
Eight experts from the beekeeping industry testified in front of the
House Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture in
Washington, D.C. on March 29, where some scientists and beekeepers
called the situation a potentially catastrophic event. 

What makes it important enough for congressional leaders to look into
this? Some of the most valuable fruits, vegetables, nuts and field crops
depend on insect pollination, particularly by honey bees. To name a few,
100 percent of almonds, 90 percent of apples and cultivated blueberries,
48 percent of peaches and 29 percent of oranges rely on honeybees for
proper pollination. Others, to a lesser percentage, include watermelons,
pears, pumpkins, cucumbers, soybeans, cherries, raspberries,
blackberries, cranberries and strawberries. Honeybees are needed to
produce one-third of our food supply, and the beekeeping industry
represents a vital component of the U.S. agriculture worth about $14

When people talk or hear about honeybees, they of course think of honey.
But honey has become almost a side product in today's apiculture; the
main event is pollination. Commercial migratory beekeepers follow the
bloom from citrus trees in Florida to almond trees in California, apple
trees in Pennsylvania and blueberries in Maine. It is conservatively
estimated that about 1 million colonies of bees are needed just to
pollinate the almond trees in California. California produces about half
of the world's almonds. 

With the (literal) disappearance of at least 35 percent of bee colonies
since October 2006, this may become the worst crisis since the honeybee
was introduced to the U.S. by European settlers in the 1620s. Because no
specific cause or disease has been identified in this massive and sudden
die-off, it was given the name "Colony Collapse Disorder." 

During the last 50 years, the bee industry already has suffered enormous
casualties in its battle to survive. The domesticated honeybees lost
about half their population during that period. Pesticides and pests
such as mites, beetles and various parasites have all taken their toll,
most notably since the 1980s when the varroa mite arrived in the U.S.
The feral bee population is almost non-existent mostly because of the
varroa mite. Also large numbers of hobby beekeepers have given up
because of the increased cost and complexity of keeping bees. 

But those losses are nothing compared to Colony Collapse Disorder. The
typical die-off is as puzzling as it is frightening. There are no dead
bees to be found. The foraging bees are leaving the colony and do not
return; they either die in the field or they do not know how to return
to the colony. Within a short time, usually about two weeks, a colony is
sparsely populated by an overworked queen and a few young adult bees,
not enough for the colony to survive. 

With no victim left behind and few clues available, it is extremely
difficult for researchers to solve this puzzle. The examination of bees
left in the hive revealed that those were suffering from a severely
weakened immune system with large numbers of diseased organisms, foreign
fungi and bacteria present. Colony Collapse may be stress-related, as
colonies are overworked during the pollination season or perhaps travel
too much. Some of the causes may be natural; others may be connected to
pesticides used within the hive or in the foraging fields. Some experts
have voiced their concern about a relatively new class of systematic
insecticides with the active ingredient imidacloprid, which is used in
agriculture and home gardens alike. The "Bulletin of Insectology 56"
(ISSN 1721-8861) published the following conclusions as a result of
laboratory tests with imidacloprid on honey bees in 2003. 

"Imidacloprid affects honey bee mobility ..." 

"Treated bees seem to lose their communicative capacity ..." 

"... Bees, accidentally intoxicated in the field with imidacloprid,
could find difficulties in returning to their hive ..." 

A group of scientists and beekeeping experts have formed a "Colony
Collapse Disorder Working Group," but no answers have been found yet and
the die-off continues. Dr. Albert Einstein once said that if there are
no more honey bees, then humans will have only four more years to live. 

"No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no
more humans." 

Hartmut Jung is a local beekeeper, a member of the S.C. Beekeepers
Association and a Journeyman Beekeeper in the S.C. Master Beekeeping
Program. Jung advocates ecological beekeeping practices in the "Aiken
Ecological Beekeeping Society," a non-affiliated group of local
apiarists. In his Bee Yard, Hartmut Jung tends 20-30 colonies to produce
local honey. 

With the Farm Bill up for reauthorization this year, OFAN is providing
news, information, and updates about this legislation as well as letting
you know when to take action. Currently, the Agriculture Subcommittees
in Congress are hearing testimony and draft Farm Bill language is being
circulated by various Congressional offices. Among them are proposals
supporting organic agriculture. However, more comprehensive language for
the Farm Bill won't be forthcoming until late spring, after the final
Congressional budget resolution tells lawmakers how much funding is
available for Farm Bill programs. 

OFRF will continue to advocate for increased funding for organic
agricultural research and technical assistance (click here
<>  for our 2007 Farm
Bill Organic Research Policy Targets), and we need your help! The voice
of organic farmers will be crucial in delivering the message to Congress
that organic agriculture must be a priority in the Farm Bill. We will
keep you posted about important opportunities to contact your member of
Congress in the coming months. Our website,
<> , is constantly being
updated so please check back regularly for current information about the
Farm Bill process.

In an historic moment for the organic agriculture community, the House
Agriculture Committee held its first-ever hearing on organic agriculture
and business on Wednesday, April 18th. OFRF Policy Program Director Mark
Lipson testified before its Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic
Agriculture. There has never been a committee in either the Senate or
the House which included organic agriculture in its title and no
hearings have ever been held in the House Agriculture Committee -
including during the passage of the Organic Foods Production Act in
1990. That bill was added as an amendment to the 1990 Farm Bill on the
floor of the House of Representatives!

Mark's testimony focused on obstacles facing the growth of domestic
organic production and the gaps in organic production research and
education. Click here <>
to read Mark's full testimony. A video clip of the hearing will soon be
available on our website,
<> .

Now is the time for members of this new Subcommittee to hear directly
from organic farmers about the issues that matter to you. Testimony
collected at this hearing and written testimony submitted later will
play an important role in the development of Farm Bill language on
organic agriculture. 

Please submit written testimony via email to the staff of the
Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture and be sure to send
a copy your Member of Congress. Contact information for Subcommittee
staff and your Representative as well as talking points for your
testimony are provided below. You have until April 28th, 2007 to submit
written testimony. 

Contact Information for Staff at the
Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture

Jamie Weyer, Hearing Clerk: [log in to unmask]
<mailto:[log in to unmask]> 
Keith Jones, Staff Director: [log in to unmask]
<mailto:[log in to unmask]> 

Your Congress Member's Contact Info

Representative Mike Rogers:
(If your Representative's name does not appear here, visit <>  to
find out who represents you.)

Pointers for Submitting Testimony

*                        Make the following your email subject line:
"Written Testimony for April 18 Organic Hearing."

*                        Include the following as the title of your
testimony: "Written Testimony for the Hearing on Economic Impacts of
Production, Processing, and Marketing Organic Agriculture Products,

*                        Address your testimony to "Honorable Members of
the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture:"

*                        Tell them where you live.

*                        Describe your farm operation, including
products grown, methods of marketing, and innovations you use.

*                        Describe some of the contributions your farm
(or organic farms in your community) makes to the local or regional
community and economy.

*                        Describe some of the challenges, particularly
economic ones, that you face as an organic grower (or that you see
facing organic growers).

*                        Provide suggestions and ideas you have that
would help organic growers increase their contribution to their
communities, local economy and food system.

*                        Include your full name and address. 

Once you submit your testimony, email [log in to unmask]
<mailto:[log in to unmask]>  to let us know who you contacted and if you
can, please include your testimony.

OFAN wants to make sure your voice is heard in the halls of Congress.
Below is the contact info for your Representative and Senators and their
relevant staff. Send them an email, or give them a call - they should
know that organic agriculture is important to their constituents!

Representative Mike Rogers

District Office

Capitol Office

1327 East Michigan Ave. 

133 Cannon House Office Building


Washington, DC 20515

Lansing, MI 48912


(877) 333-6453 



Senator Carl Levin

State Office

Capitol Office

515 N. Washington Ave.

269 Russell Senate Office Building


Washington, DC 20510

Saginaw, MI 48607-1242


(989) 754-2494



Senator Debbie Stabenow

State Office

Capitol Office

3335 South Airport Road West

133 Hart Senate Office Building

Suite 6B

Washington, DC 20510

Traverse City, MI 49684


(231) 929-1031


(If your elected officials' names and contact info do not appear here,
<>  to find out who
represents you.)

OFRF is pleased to announce that Tracy Lerman has joined our staff as
our Policy Program Assistant. You'll hear more about Tracy soon, but for
now suffice it to say it's great to have another professional organizer
to assist us (and you) in advocating for organic family farmers! 




Vicki Morrone

Organic Vegetable and Crop Outreach Specialist

Michigan State University

C.S. Mott Sustainable Food Systems

303 Natural Resources Bldg.

East Lansing, MI 48824


517-282-3557 (cell)

517-353-3834 (fax)



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