Hearing of the imminent demise of the Beekeeper's Indemnity Program, tends not to pause. "Buzz off," one may uncharitably think. But cancellation of this USDA program, effective next month, has inflamed both the nation's beekeepers and environmentalists. ("Oh, no, they're going to say it 'stung them,'" you're thinking. Honey, you're right.)
To bee or not to bee was the question, but we are getting ahead of the subject: the Beekeepers Indemnity Program, part of the Agricultural Act of 1970, which compensated farmers for bees killed by pesticides. A total of $3.7 million was paid annually. Environmentalists and farmers alike were contented, for honey is the least of a bees talents -- just beeing there, they pollinate 85 percent of the crops. Sens. George McGovern (D-S.D.), S. I. Hayakawa (R-Calif.), Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) and Birch Bayh (D-Ind.) all backed Beekeeper's Indemnity; all were part of the Right To Flight.
Alas, into this happy hive of activity came a detractor: Rep. Silvio Conte (R-Mass.); constituency semi-rural; record strongly anti-bee. He beefuddled, beeleagured, bedazzled. He beefed every time he got the floor.
"I've been the watchdog of this honey-coated beekeeper indemnity program for years," he'd beegin. Or, "Let's get the sticky fingers of the beekeeper out of the Federal Honey Jar."
What good to tell this beest -- could he be a major stockholder in a maple syrup company? -- what the Environmental Defense Fund had said: "Bees are an integral part of the agro ecosystem, essential to the production of many crops."
What good to beelittle his speeches by saying the farmers, receiving $22.50 per colony, were being reimbursed for an abeesmal 25 percent of their losses? "Bee gone," he'd probably tell you.
This autumn, thus, after its long sweet summer, the Beekeeper Indemnity Program ends. The farmers, represented by the National Sharecroppers Fund, are trying not to be bitter. They take hope in the fact that $1.5 million bill, current before the House Appropriations Committee, may provide some funding.
But for now, the farmers have lost their sting. And the Beekeeper Indemnity Program is a beeten has-been.