Saturday, June 20, 2009

Honeybees to be Welcomed at White House

By Rob Hotakainen, The Sacramento Bee, 6/20/2009

WASHINGTON – Official Washington is all abuzz over honeybees.

At the White House, two types of parasite-resistant honeybees developed by U.S. scientists will be delivered to the first family's new garden next month.

On Capitol Hill, California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer wants Congress to spend $20 million to research colony collapse disorder, which has caused big losses for the nation's beekeepers in recent years.

Both developments are welcome news for honeybee backers, who have found themselves getting slapped around this year.

When an early version of an economic stimulus bill contained $150 million in subsidies for honeybees and other farm products, many Republicans howled in protest.

"This is nonsense," huffed Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate's minority leader from Kentucky.

And when Congress passed a $1.7 million earmark for Texas honeybees as part of a broader appropriations bill, critics cited it as a prime example of pork-barrel spending.

Beekeepers find themselves on the defensive and say they must educate members of Congress about the importance of their industry. They're doing it with the help of lobbyists. Yes, bee lobbyists.

"Life is interesting. My inbox is rather eclectic," said Thomas Van Arsdall, a bee lobbyist or, more officially, the director of public affairs for the Pollinator Partnership.

He's busy making plans for the third annual National Pollinator Week, June 22-28, a time for schools, churches, garden clubs and others to celebrate honeybees and other pollinators. "They're important if you like to eat," explained Van Arsdall…

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