U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have written a March 14, 2016, letter requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) act on recommendations contained in a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on bee health.

Summarizing federal initiatives designed to improve bee health and protect pollinator populations, the report calls on USDA to “coordinate with other agencies to develop a plan to monitor wild, native bees, and evaluate gaps in staff expertise in conservation practices.” In particular, GAO recommends that USDA redouble its efforts with the White House Pollinator Health Task Force to “develop a mechanism, such as a federal monitoring plan, that would (1) establish roles and responsibilities of lead and support agencies, (2) establish shared outcomes and goals, and (3) obtain input from relevant stakeholders, such as states.” According to the report, USDA should also update the categories of bees in the Current Research Information System to reflect those in the Pollinator Health Task Force’s research action plan; institute measures to track conservation program acres; and evaluate the effectiveness of plans to restore bee habitats.

The GAO report also urges EPA to (i) determine whether the most common mixtures of pesticides used on crops “pose greater risks than the sum of the risks posed by the individual pesticides”; (ii) “develop a plan for obtaining data from pesticide registrants on the effects of pesticides on non-honey bee species”; and (iii) “provide Congress and the public with accurate information about the schedules for completing the registration reviews for existing pesticides.”

Meanwhile, Boxer, Feinstein and Gillibrand have voiced support for these  actions, calling for the extension of the Pollinator Health Task Force beyond the current administration. They also ask EPA to extend the use of “bee advisory boxes” on pesticide labels “in order to increase consumer and user awareness of the proper, effective application for pesticides and best practices for their use, for both commercial and homeowner pesticide users.” As the letter concludes, “Protecting honeybees and other pollinators is a critical function, and the federal government must continue building upon the progress underway since the task force was created in 2014.”