Pennsylvania Lawmakers Push for Pollinator Protection to Bolster Economy and Food Production

Honey bee on a rosePhoto by marnock on Pexels.com

DEVON, PA — Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Senator Carolyn Comitta gathered at Jenkins Arboretum and Gardens in Chester County on Thursday to highlight the importance of Senate Bill 1193, known as the Plant and Pollinator Protection Act. The bill aims to update outdated laws and introduce measures that protect pollinators, which are crucial to Pennsylvania’s agriculture and economy.

Economic Impact of Pollinators

Pollinators play a vital role in the nursery and landscaping industry, which generates $4.1 billion annually for Pennsylvania and supports over 63,000 jobs. More than 80% of flowering plants, including key crops like apples, peaches, tomatoes, and berries, depend on pollination for reproduction.

“Some of our favorite foods rely on pollinators,” said Secretary Redding. He emphasized that protecting pollinators is essential not only for maintaining beautiful flowers and honey but also for ensuring the future of food production.

Modernizing Old Laws

Pennsylvania has had laws in place since 1921 and 1937 to protect pollinators from diseases and safeguard nurseries from pests. However, these laws are outdated. Senate Bill 1193, sponsored by Senator Comitta, aims to combine and modernize these regulations to better reflect today’s environmental and economic challenges.

“Pollinators have a mighty impact in helping keep our families healthy, our farms strong, and our local gardens flourishing,” said Comitta. She stressed the need to update laws to protect bees and other pollinators from modern threats such as pests and pathogens.

Protecting Pollinators

The bill proposes several measures to protect pollinators. These include reducing pesticide use, expanding protections to include not just honeybees but also butterflies, bats, and other valuable pollinators. The legislation also aims to enhance state quality assurance verifications, which could boost trade opportunities for Pennsylvania businesses both domestically and internationally.

Additionally, the bill seeks to base business inspections on specific pest and disease threats, adopting a proactive and preventative approach. It also plans to adjust inspection, certification, and testing fees to match current costs and improve customer service.

The Buzz about Native Pollinators

Tom Smarr, Executive Director of Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens, pointed out the critical role of native pollinators in maintaining the health and diversity of ecosystems. “Native pollinators are the unsung heroes of our ecosystems,” he said. Public gardens like Jenkins provide a sanctuary for these pollinators, supporting biodiversity and securing food sources.

Boosting Agriculture: Protecting Pollinators for Economic Growth

The agriculture and food industry contributes $132.5 billion annually to Pennsylvania’s economy and supports over 593,000 jobs. Pennsylvania leads the nation in floriculture businesses and ranks fourth in apple and peach production. Protecting pollinators is therefore not just an environmental issue but a significant economic one.

The success of Senate Bill 1193 could set a precedent for other states to follow, encouraging a nationwide effort to protect pollinators and, by extension, the vital agricultural sectors they support. This initiative represents a comprehensive approach to ensuring the sustainability of Pennsylvania’s food supply and economic health.

In conclusion, the Plant and Pollinator Protection Act is a crucial step toward modernizing Pennsylvania’s agricultural practices and safeguarding the state’s economy and environment. By protecting pollinators, the state can ensure continued food production and economic prosperity for future generations.

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