Today, President Obama issued a memorandum directing U.S. government agencies to take additional steps to protect and restore domestic populations of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies – critical contributors to our nation’s economy, food system, and environmental health.
Pollinators contribute substantially to the sustainability of our food production systems, the economic vitality of the agricultural sector, and the health of the environment. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops in the United States each year, and pollination by other species adds another $9 billion. In addition, pollinators help wild flowering plants grow, making ecosystems stronger and more resilient.
But for decades, pollinator populations in the United States have been falling. The number of managed U.S. honey bee colonies dropped from 6 million colonies in 1947, to 4 million in 1970, 3 million in 1990, and just 2.5 million today. And last winter, the Monarch butterfly migration across North America was smaller than all previous migrations on record, and there is a risk that this iconic migration could end. These numbers highlight the importance of taking immediate steps to address these alarming declines and ensure the sustainability of our nation’s food production systems, economy, and environment.