The Pollinator Stewardship Initiative taskforce has been named, and met for the first time via conference call on October 10, according to Joe Bischoff, regulatory and legislative affairs director for AmericanHort. The taskforce is made up of 11 plant breeders, growers and garden retailers, as well as Bischoff representing AmericanHort and Lin Schmale, senior director, government relations for the Society of American Florists. Two scientists are also active in an advisory role — one is an entomologist and the other is an expert on pollinators, especially bees, in the landscape.
Members of the taskforce will not be named individually, to protect them from activist groups. All members have been active in the industry discussion regarding pollinator health thus far, and provide a good representation of different geographic areas of the country, Bischoff says.
The taskforce does not include any members from beekeeping groups, crop protection companies or NGOs (any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group, i.e. Friends of the Earth); however, the taskforce will be communicating with these groups, and ask them to present their stake and perspective on the issue.
“We want the members of the taskforce to feel comfortable sharing what they are capable of and what they think the industry can accomplish, without making any promises at this point,” Bischoff says.
The focus of the first conference call was to discuss what issues the Stewardship Initiative is facing and where research is moving. The group will focus on questions that need to be answered via research, and look for opportunities to fund that work.
In addition, the taskforce will work to identify realistic stewardship guidelines for the industry, in terms of providing habitat and forage for pollinators, and being more cautious with pesticide use.
“We want to be sure that whatever we come up with is flexible and applicable to any size operation,” Bischoff says.
Securing Research Funding
Meanwhile, the Pollinator Stewardship Initiative funding is still in the early stages, Bischoff says.
“We are very encouraged by the participation and support coming in,” he says.
Another source on the taskforce says one breeder and one retailer have each contributed $100,000 to the initiative through the Horticultural Research Institute.
The group has identified that at least $750,000 will need to be raised to fund the necessary research and other associated work. This doesn’t have to all come from the industry, Bischoff says.
“AmericanHort and SAF have been successful in leveraging industry money and getting federal funds in support of major issues,” he says. “We’re looking for the same opportunities here.”
For example, Bischoff says AmericanHort was able to leverage industry money collected for boxwood blight research into nearly $2 million in federal funding support for the work. The American Floral Endowment provided money for research on impatiens downy mildew, and together, AmericanHort and SAF were able to leverage that and secure $900,000.
Most recently, the National Institute for Food and Agriculture funded rose rosette disease work for $4.6 million, and another researcher was able to secure an additional $100,000 through a federal grant cooperative agreement process in which AmericanHort and SAF are involved. Working with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the industry successfully advocated for getting seed money to set up roses in the National Clean Plant Network, making them the first landscape crop in the network, Bischoff says.