June 24, 2016
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Recommendations From New York State Pollinator Task Force

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Pollinator Protection Plan Will Serve as Guide to Conserve and Grow the Pollinator Population Vital to the State’s Environment, Agricultural Industry

Task Force Recommends Projects to Receive Funding to Promote the Health and Recovery of Pollinators 

WYSIWYG

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the recommendations of the New York State Pollinator Task Force. To address the decline in pollinators that has occurred in recent years, last year the Governor directed the Commissioners of the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Department of Environmental Conservation to meet with farmers, research institutions and key industry leaders to develop a roadmap to conserve and grow pollinator populations across the state. Pollinators – which include various types of bees and butterflies – contribute significantly to the state’s agricultural economy by adding roughly $350 million in pollination services on an annual basis.

“Pollinators are critical to our ecosystem, as well as New York's agricultural industry, and the work of this Task Force will help in our efforts to reverse the troubling decline of the bee population in New York and help to preserve and further improve this state's environmental and economic health," Governor Cuomo said. "I thank the members of the Task Force for their efforts and look forward to reviewing their recommendations."

The New York State Pollinator Protection Plan was created in coordination with the Task Force advisory group, which included a wide variety of stakeholders—including farmers, apiarists, pesticide applicators and environmentalists. The Task Force held four roundtable meetings with the advisory group, and solicited public comments, on important issues critical to the development of the plan. As a result of listening sessions and stakeholder input, the Task Force focused its recommendations on four priority areas:

  • Development of Voluntary Best Management Practices for all pollinator stakeholders, including beekeepers, growers, land owners, state agencies and the general public;
  • Habitat enhancement efforts to protect and revive populations of native and managed pollinators;
  • Research and monitoring of pollinators to better understand, prevent and recover from pollinator losses; and
  • Development of an outreach and public education program on the importance of pollinators, engaging the public to be active participants to seek solutions to pollinator declines.


“Pollinators truly are the key to ecosystem health and I applaud Governor Cuomo for launching this important task force and creating the pollinator protection plan for New York State,” said Basil Seggos, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. “With new Environmental Protection Fund resources, and this plan as our guide, we look forward to working with the Department of Agriculture and Markets, State Parks and other task force partners to begin implementing the priority recommendations and continue to improve the health of pollinators and their habitats in New York.”

“We are pleased to present the NYS Pollinator Protection Plan, which includes best practices for our farmers, land owners, bee keepers and state agencies, many of which we can get to work on immediately,” said Commissioner of Agricultural & Markets Richard Ball. “While more research needs to be done, we know that the key to reversing the trend of a declining pollinator population in New York is a comprehensive approach that looks at a variety of issues that may be impacting bee health. The Pollinator Protection Plan serves as a best, first step and provides us with a plan to begin the sustainable recovery of our bees and other pollinators so important to our agricultural industry. I thank the Governor for his commitment to pollinator health, and the Task Force members and its advisory group for their dedication to this process.”

“The Pollinator Protection Plan along with associated funding is a major first step in identifying and addressing the challenges facing both native and managed pollinators across the state," said Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. "New York’s world class park system serves pollinators not only as a sanctuary, but also as a classroom for patrons and researchers. The funding provided in the plan for habitat enhancement and education will allow State Parks to expand pollinator efforts across the state. I thank Governor Cuomo, Commissioners’ Ball and Seggos and the members of the NYS Pollinator Task Force for leading this effort."

Pollinators contribute substantially to the state’s economy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York and add $29 billion in value to crop production nationally each year. New York’s ability to produce crops such as apples, grapes, cherries, onions, pumpkins and cauliflower relies heavily on the presence of pollinators.

Pollinator Protection Plan Recommendations
Central to the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan is the development and implementation of Best Management Practices to guide landowners/growers, contract beekeepers, hobbyist beekeepers, pesticide users and state agencies to safeguard existing managed and native pollinator populations. The plan also highlights efforts already underway at various state agencies to reverse the decline in pollinators and restore their habitat.

Despite a nine percent increase in honey production last year, New York’s beekeepers continue to experience unsustainable population declines. Over the last four years, recent research indicates managed pollinator colonies have declined over 50 percent while some migratory pollinators have declines in excess of 70 percent. This is compounded by the losses in the native pollinator community and the habitat that sustains them.

In its report, the Task Force emphasized the need for comprehensive, state-focused research to better understand the status of native pollinators in the State and the factors that impact both managed and wild pollinator health and performance.

Future Actions and Pollinator Projects
The 2016-17 enacted Budget provides $500,000 through the Environmental Protection Fund to implement key projects central to the success of the Pollinator Protection Plan. As detailed in the Plan, these funds will be used to conduct additional research on the impacts of pesticide and pathogens/parasite interactions on native and managed pollinator health, as well as the effects of bee-husbandry practices on the performance of managed hives. Pollinator research funding will also support a multi-year evaluation conducted by DEC on the status and distribution of New York State’s native pollinator species.

EPF funding will also support implementation of voluntary best management practices and outreach and education activities, including the creation of pollinator gardens and interpretative signage at select State Park locations, and the establishment of the New York’s Tech Team for Beekeepers, which will provide participating apiaries with site-specific technical support.

All priority recommendations of the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan can be found here. As new research and monitoring data become available, the Task Force will reconvene with its advisors to evaluate the findings and update the Plan accordingly and to include additional and improved actions.

Senator Tom O’Mara, Chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “The oversight, protection and recovery of native and managed honeybee and other native pollinator populations are critically important to the future strength and resiliency of so many of our farmers and producers, as well as to the agricultural industry overall in New York and states across the nation. I’m hopeful that these recommendations and continued coordination with key stakeholders will guide the state’s ongoing leadership and action in putting in place an effective and successful long-term Pollinator Protection Plan and other health strategies. It’s a critical agricultural, environmental and economic challenge.”

Senator Patty Ritchie said, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee said, "Small living things, like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds have a big impact on New York's agriculture industry, as well help to protect the vitality our environment. I'm pleased to learn of the Task Force's recommendations, and look forward to seeing how we can put them into motion to further strengthen New York's leading industry."

Assemblyman Steven Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee said, “We urgently need to reverse the problem of declining wild and managed pollinator populations. Pollinating animals, including bees, birds, butterflies, beetles and others, are vital to our state’s ecosystems and food protection. This year’s Environmental Protection Fund provides $500,000 to fund key elements of the NYS Pollinator Protection Plan including best management practices, public outreach and education, research and restoration of pollinator habitat.”

Assemblyman Bill Magee, Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee said, “Honeybee and other pollinators have a direct and significant effect on crop values and production. Due to the recent decline in their populations it is important to recognize the challenges of the beekeeping industry which consists of commercial beekeepers, part-time beekeepers, and hobbyists. I appreciate and applaud the efforts on behalf of Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Ball, and the appointed Task Force, to create a Pollinator Protection Plan for New York to help ensure the protection and viability of pollinators.”

Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences said, “Pollinators are oftentimes the unsung heroes of agriculture and food security, but without them many of New York’s most high value fruits would never see successful production. Cornell University couldn’t be more proud of the work done by our scientists and extension personnel on this report, and we look forward to continuing partnerships with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in order to ensure that the Empire State’s pollinators remain robust contributors to environmental and economic well-being.”

Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau said, "Pollinators play an important role in New York's agricultural economy. New York Farm Bureau will work with the new Pollinator Protection Plan to increase the sustainability of pollinators that are vital to the success of New York agriculture.”

Rich Schrader, Political and Legislative Director for the New York Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council said, “Bees are in serious danger but there are two critical steps we can take to save them: reduce the use of harmful pesticides, and increase native bee-friendly plants. New York State’s pollinator protection plan is a strong step in ensuring that bees – and our agricultural economy that depends on them – keep on humming.”

Audubon New York Executive Director Erin Crotty said, “Pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds play an essential role in the functioning of our ecosystems. Their decline is a threat to many industries, agribusiness, and entire ecological systems. Audubon New York commends Governor Andrew Cuomo for prioritizing their protection and providing New Yorkers with the information and tools they need to play an active role in ensuring adequate population recovery of these critical species.”

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