Report 1-12-21

The American Farm Bureau Federation usually holds their annual convention during the second week in January in some place that’s warm. But this year, it’s being held online due to concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic. During the opening session on Sunday, ABF president Zippy Duvall said that the incoming Biden administration will focus on climate change, and he encouraged farmers and ranchers to participate in discussions around climate change issues, because they have a great story to tell when it comes to protecting our environment. Duvall pointed out that about 40 million acres, or 219,000 square miles of farmland are enrolled in federal soil and water conservation programs and that biofuels “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 71 million tonnes per year.” During the recent presidential election campaign, President-elect Biden described climate change as an existential threat to the well being of our country, and vowed to propose comprehensive legislation to slow global warming. Biden wants American agriculture to be the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases, and he contends that farmers can earn money as part of this initiative by sequestering carbon in the soil. Other items on the ABF legislative agenda include resolving agricultural labor shortages, expanding farm exports, and increasing rural access to broadband internet connections.

The National Resource Conservation Service launched the Bee Better Certification program in 2017 to increase the public’s awareness of the importance of maintaining both domestic and native bee populations, because of their role in pollinating plants that are a part of our food supply. The certification was established using a set of science-based standards for pollinator conservation on farms. These include targeted benchmarks for how much wild pollinator habitat a farm should sustain, systems and practices to reduce pesticide impacts on bees and guidance for reducing pathogen transmission from managed bees to wild bees. The NRCS points out that pollinators are responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat, and that they contribute more than $15 billion to our nation’s crop values each year. The program has developed a Bee Better seal that’s gaining acceptance from some major retailers, including Haagen-Dazs, Rainer Fruit, California Giant Berry Farms, and Home Grown Organic Farms.

The discovery of a Giant Asian hornet nest in far northwestern Washington state in October of 2020 received a lot of media attention since they were often referred to as “murder hornets because of their propensity to kill off whole hives of bees. But the good news is that while researchers were dispatching the bad hornets, they discovered Lepto pilina japonica wasps, living in the nest, which up to then had not been known to be in the nited States. These tiny wasps are predators of a bothersome fruit fly, the spotted wing drosophila that does significant damage to cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and blueberry crops in Colorado and around the west. Researchers believe that Lepto pilina japonica wasps have the potential to manage the spotted wing drosophila better than insecticides that are effective but growers often have to spray on a weekly schedule, which can lead to residue concerns and added expense.

John F. Kennedy said, “No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.”

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