Published: Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 3:34 p.m.
Bee numbers at risk
A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.
A conclusive explanation so far has escaped scientists studying the ailment, colony collapse disorder, since it first surfaced around 2005. But beekeepers and some researchers say there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor.
The pesticide industry disputes that. But its representatives also say they are open to further studies to clarify what, if anything, is happening.
“They looked so healthy last spring,” said Bill Dahle, 50, who owns Big Sky Honey in Fairview, Mont. “We were so proud of them. Then, about the first of September, they started to fall on their face, to die like crazy. We’ve been doing this 30 years, and we’ve never experienced this kind of loss before.”
Animal-rights group sues
A Sonoma County-based animal protection group says it has joined a lawsuit alleging that three federal agencies have failed to properly regulate animal welfare labeling on egg cartons.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund of Cotati and the Washington-based Compassion Over Killing jointly filed the complaint in federal district court in Oakland against the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Federal Trade Commission.
The two groups want egg cartons to list production methods, including the identification when appropriate of “Eggs from Caged Hens.”
The local group last fall filed a class-action lawsuit against a Petaluma egg farmer, alleging his cartons falsely lead consumers to conclude that his chickens roam freely around the farm. The case is pending.
Aid deadline is April 19
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has set an April 19 deadline for California growers with certified organic farms — and those making the transition to organic — to apply for financial aid.
The conservation service said more than $3 million is available statewide as part of its Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
Organic producers can receive up to $20,000 per year or $80,000 over six years.
For more information, visit www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip.
— Staff and wire reports
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