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 position.

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

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 billion.

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, ofrf.org, 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, ofrf.org.

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]
Keith Jones, Staff Director: [log in to unmask]

Your Congress Member’s Contact Info

Representative Mike Rogers: http://www.mikerogers.house.gov/Contact.aspx
(If your Representative’s name does not appear here, visit congressmerge.com 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, 4/18/07.”

·                        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] 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, visit congressmerge.com 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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