A Successful Swarming of the State House

In preparation for this week’s committee vote on a bill to prohibit the use of certain pesticides that are particularly harmful to birds and pollinators, a press conference was held in the State House to show support.

On February 27th, dozens of beekeepers, legislative champions, policy experts, and others gathered in the Cedar Creek room in the Vermont State House. While donning their bee keeping suits, “Protect our Pollinators” shirts, and bee costumes, they provided informational flyers and showed legislatures that Vermonters care deeply about protecting pollinators and supporting farmers. Audubon Vermont staff Alison Choate, Cassie Wolfanger, and Margaret Fowle joined the energetic group in “Swarming” the State House was to show support for Vermont House Bill 706 (H. 706).  

Man standing at a podium surrounded by people with protect our pollinators signs
Paul Burns of VPIRG addresses the press and crowd. Photo: Audubon Vermont

H. 706 strives to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid (neonic) treated seeds in the state of Vermont. The use of neonic pesticides is a toxic threat that is endangering the health of birds, people, and other wildlife. Even relatively low doses of neonics can prevent songbirds from orienting themselves for migration, cause significant weight loss, and interfere with reproductive success. This bill mimics the recently passed New York Birds and Bees Protection Act prohibiting neonics there.  

The press conference was led by Vermont Public Interest Group (VPIRG). During the recorded press conference, there were impassioned speeches from Paul Burns of VPIRG, Bianca Braman (Vermont Beekeepers Association), Andrew Munkres (Vermont Beekeepers Association), Representative Heather Surprenant, and Representative Mike Rice.  

Woman standing at a podium surrounded by people with protect our pollinators signs
Representative Suprenant addresses the crowd. Photo: Audubon Vermont

H. 706 was introduced in the House Committee on Agriculture, Food Resiliency, and Forestry on January 1, 2024. Since then, committee members have heard testimony from conservation biologists, scientists, professors, directors of agronomy, policy directors, dairy farmers, representatives from the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, pollinator specialists, feed distributors, landscape companies, beef farmers, spruce farmers, chemists, representatives from the Department of Environmental Conservation, a Quebec Agronomist, and more. Our own Margaret Fowle provided testimony specifically on the effects of neonics on birds. With extensive discussion with the testifying experts, as well as amongst themselves, the Committee finally came to an 8-2 decision to pass the bill.  

The bill has now moved to the House floor for all House representatives to get the opportunity to vote.

Thank you to all who expressed support for this bill so far and have contacted your legislators. This is an incredible step in the right direction, but the work is not done just yet. Keep up the good work and continue reaching out to your legislators to let your voice be heard!  

Women holding protect our pollinators and farms signs
Alison Choate and Cassie Wolfanger show their support for H.706 Photo: Audubon Vermont

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