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Title: The Impact of the 2008 Farm Bill On Pollinators in the United States
Authors: Patacsil, Christopher
Advisors: Andolfatto, Peter
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Class Year: 2016
Abstract: Pollination is a key part of the sexual reproduction of angiosperms, the flowering plants that include apples, lettuce, and wheat (Zeng et al. 2014). While wind-pollination and other abiotic factors may contribute to this vital component of plant reproduction, the majority of pollination occurs due to animal pollinators (Faegri and van der Pijl, 1979). Birds, bats, bees, and many other insects serve as pollinators for a multitude of plants and agricultural crops (Frankel and Galun, 1977). Worldwide, the total value of specific insect-pollinated crops was $897.8 billion in 2009, roughly 39% of the world production value (Gallai et al. 2009). These animals are important to both ecosystems and economies, but they are also greatly threatened by climate change, diseases, and other insects (Ellis et al. 2010; Cameron et al., 2010; Tscharntke et al., 2002; Hickling et al., 2006). In response, the United States enacted the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (“Farm Bill of 2008”), which made pollinator conservation and restoration an explicit priority for the first time. As of yet, no assessment has been done to determine whether this bill has positively impacted pollinator numbers. I wanted to investigate the effectiveness of the Farm Bill of 2008 by using the aggregate yield and value of production of 31 crops that were dependent and not dependent on animal pollination in the period 1992-2014 (Calderone 2012). I hypothesized that if the bill had helped boost pollinator numbers, then there would be a greater increase in aggregate yield and value of production in pollinator-dependent crops than in pollinator-independent crops after 2008. Although the value of production for dependent crops was significantly greater after 2008 than before 2008, the value of production for independent crops was also significantly greater after 2008 than before 2008. Aggregate yield did not show any significant difference before and after 2008 between both crop groups. Thus, value of production and aggregate yield did not indicate that the Farm Bill of 2008 had significantly altered pollinator numbers, though the time frame since the passing of the bill is relatively short. Furthermore, conclusions about the change in pollinator numbers since 2008 cannot be made definitively because I was using proxies rather than proper pollinator numbers. Since the incentives promoted by the bill are all voluntary, it is possible that they are underused, which has resulted in little change in pollinator conditions (US Department of Agriculture, 2008). Further studies should assess government incentive claiming rates among farmers to determine if the money from the Farm Bill of 2008 is being used in the first place. More research is needed to discover any connection between anthropogenic disturbances and pollinator foraging behavior changes. In this way, the government will be better able to protect these extremely valuable animals that provide a service to the environment and humankind alike.
Extent: 31 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 1992-2016

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