Already stung by unchecked phony honey imports and limited funding for research into a phantom hive killer, the Obama administration has decided to end the publication of two key reports beekeepers rely on to plan their business and chart trends. [Read about the fresh honey at the White House.]
"It's the only unbiased report that exists that measures number of colonies and honey production," says Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture, a magazine for hobbyists and industrial beekeepers. "Without it, there's no way to measure colony losses, reduced honey production," he says.
Officials say that the Annual Honey and Bees Report and National Honey Market Report are among nearly a dozen being killed due to budgetary cuts. Spokeswoman Sue duPont says eliminating the publications will save some $11 million. "It's totally a budget issue," she says.[See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
The industry, however, is fighting back with a letter writing campaign in hopes of getting Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reconsider canceling the honey publications. Flottum says that some are even going so far as to consider raising the $402,000 needed to research and publish the reports. "They said, "Sure, pay us that much and they'd do it.' We're not going down without a fuss."
The Annual Honey and Bees Report gives the number of hives for each state, how much honey they produced, the honey left over from the previous season, the prices of the honey produced and sold, and the total value of the honey produced and sold. Flottum calls it "an indispensable report to the beekeeping industry because it is an unbiased report on these metrics and as a result, is used countless times by the media (including Bee Culture magazine), when reporting the number of colonies in each state and the nation, by the scientific community when documenting changes in colony numbers and colony health, by the honey marketing arm of our industry when making plans for honey sales, pricing and availability."
Exporters and importers also use it to plan future sales and the insurance industry uses it to chart hive losses. [Read about why the world's biggest economies are headed for a slowdown.]
Flottum says that without it there is no way to chart the destruction of Colony Collapse Disorder, which is wreaking havoc on the industry and is the subject of millions of federal research dollars.
The monthly National Honey Market Report shows prices paid for honey and is critical for marketing U.S. honey. "This information is critical on the international market as well, as it is an indicator of the health of, and the status of the beekeeping industries of the many countries that export to the U.S., the largest honey buyer on the planet," Flottum says.
The cuts come at already difficult time for beekeepers, especially commercial operators, who are seeking more funding into CCD and who are fighting a flood of imports of phony and contaminated honey.