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Farmers get less honeybee help

The ongoing loss of honeybees in the United States is going to sting consumers.

That was the unvarnished finding of a report released last week from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report was the result of months of research from the National Honey Bee Health Steering Committee.

It found that since 2006, an estimated 10 million bee hives have been destroyed by Colony Collapse Disorder. The approximate value of the lost hives is $2 billion.

The report found several contributing factors to the decline of honeybee colonies, including parasites, disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure. The next step for the committee is coming up with a federal strategy for dealing with the decline.

But why should the average American care whether bees are dying?

Honeybee pollination contributes to agricultural production worth up to $30 billion each year. About one-third of all food and beverages are made possible because of the pollination activities done mainly by honeybees.

Soon, farmers are going to have to pay commercial pollination services to take over the duties that bees do for free.

Those farmers will have no choice but to pass that additional cost on to consumers.

Two votes for fairness

Both of Indiana’s U.S. senators were on the right side of a Monday vote to ensure sales taxes are administered fairly.

Sens. Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly supported the bipartisan Marketplace Fairness Act to allow states to collect sales taxes on purchases made online. It was approved 69-27 in the Senate but is expected to face a much tougher test in the Republican-controlled House, given that anti-tax warrior Grover Norquist opposes it. Norquist’s claim that it represents a tax increase is losing steam against appeals from small business owners with storefront operations competing against distant retailers.

Other opponents claim the tax places an unfair burden on the Internet retailers, although businesses with less than $1 million in annual online sales would be exempted from the program.

While brick-and-mortar stores collect sales tax based on the single rate where they are located, taxes on online transactions would be based on where the customers are. There are more than 9,600 tax jurisdictions between state and local governments.

Under the proposed law, states seeking to collect the revenue would have to provide retailers with computer software to calculate taxes, and it’s difficult to imagine that some enterprising software developer isn’t already devising an application to make the transactions painless. The same technology advances that have exacerbated the tax collection problem should be able to resolve it.

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