Agriculture and Food:

Honey Program

RCED-94-244R: Published: Jun 8, 1994. Publicly Released: Jun 8, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the: (1) importance of honeybees to crop pollination; and (2) relationship between the honey price support program and crop pollination by honeybees. GAO noted that: (1) honeybees are important, but they are not the exclusive pollinators of certain crops; (2) pollination is essential to most seed and fruit production and adequate pollination ensures higher yields; (3) insects are more efficient crop pollinators than other external pollinators; (4) although recent research estimates that the annual economic benefits attributable to honeybee pollination range between $1.6 billion and $5.7 billion, the actual dollar value of honeybee pollination is uncertain because of the difficulty in measuring its exact contribution; (5) a federal price support for honey is not necessary for ensuring adequate numbers of honeybees for pollination; (6) the crop producers that need honeybee pollination will acquire such services as long as they are more cost-effective than other pollination methods; (7) honeybee owners receive more revenue from honey production than from pollination services; (8) the honey subsidy may have impeded the development of a healthy pollination services market by emphasizing honey production over pollination; and (9) beekeepers are more likely to keep their bees near crops requiring honeybee pollination, since recent legislation eliminated the honey subsidy.

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