EPA and USDA to host "listening sessions" to solicit public feedback on Pollinator Health Task Force

In the November 5 Federal Register, EPA and USDA will announce two upcoming listening sessions to solicit "stakeholder input on best management practices including pesticide risk mitigation, public-private partnerships, research, education opportunities, pollinator habitat improvements, and other actions that the Task Force should consider in developing a Federal strategy to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels."

EPA will host the November 12, 2014 meeting will be held at 1 Potomac Yard South, 2777 Crystal Dr., Arlington, VA, in the lobby-level Conference Center.  USDA will host the November 17, 2014 meeting will be held at 4700 River Rd., Riverdale, MD 20737.  Both sessions will be available via webcast as well.

The Task Force was set up via Presidential Memorandum on June 20, 2014.  The memo (Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators) set up the Pollinator Health Task Force to be co-administered by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Administrator of the EPA and includes many federal agencies as members, to include the Domestic Policy Council, Office of Science Technology and Policy and the National Science Foundation.  

The memo further directed the Task Force to develop a "National Pollinator Health Strategy" no later than 180 days after the release of the memo.  Its seems quite possible this Strategy will not be available this calendar year and seems more likely that this will be delivered to the White House in January 2015.  The Strategy shall include an action plan for pollinator research, a plan for expanding and coordinating public education and recommendations to establish private/public partnerships to "encourage the protection of pollinators and increase the quality and amount of habitat and forage for pollinators."  I would argue that this education plan must include folks on the Hill, as past letters have clearly indicated an overall lack of understanding of the technical and scientific issues.

Individual member agencies are also expected to prepare agency-specific action plans by the 180-day deadline (again, roughly December 20, 2014).  The Council on Environmental Quality and the General Services Administration actually had 90-day deadlines (these were due towards the end of September 2014) to "revise their respective guidance documents for designed landscapes and public buildings to incorporate, as appropriate, pollinator-friendly practices into site landscape performance requirements to create and maintain high quality habitats for pollinators" while USDA had a 90-day deadline to "develop best management practices for executive departments and agencies to enhance pollinator habitat on Federal lands."

EPA, in the meanwhile, has been slowly working on many regulatory aspects of pesticide use to ensure pollinator health is not damaged by label-directed uses.  These efforts include compiling a list of residue mortality values for bees, making changes to the ecological risk assessment process, directing registrants to make certain labeling changes, issuing guidance for investigating pesticide-related bee kills, and analyzing the benefits of seed treatment compounds that have been associated with adverse bee health.

Comments are being taken by the EPA Pesticide Re-evaluation Division at regulations gov, see Docket # EPA-HQ-2014-0806.