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Department of Agriculture programs are under the microscope during budget talks. (Don Graham/Flickr)
Department of Agriculture programs are under the microscope during budget talks. (Don Graham/Flickr)

Cuts to the crop insurance program will again be a talking point on Capitol Hill.

The budget drafted by President Obama and released Tuesday would make cuts to the crop insurance system, allocate more funds for agricultural research and fund the summer program that provides free meals to children.

The decrease in crop insurance subsidies would amount to a savings of $18 billion over ten years, according to the Department of Agriculture’s summary of the budget (PDF). The crop insurance program costs more than $9 billion annually.

Iowa State University's Adam Dolezal says new research shows that people have contributed to honeybee disease spread. (Courtesy Adam Dolezal)
Iowa State University's Adam Dolezal says new research shows that people have contributed to honeybee disease spread. (Courtesy Adam Dolezal)

The persistent decline of honeybees has scientists scrambling to understand what’s causing the problem and how to correct it. Humans may be part of the problem.

U.S. beekeepers report losing about a third of their colonies each year and the figure increased from 2014 to 2015.

Two new studies are helping shed some light on the problem, which is affecting bees worldwide. In one, researchers in the United Kingdom explain that moving bee hives across long distances, as is common in the United States to pollinate crops such as California almonds, speeds up the process of disease spread.

Deformed Wing Virus, a disease native to Europe, wasn’t too problematic until a mite that was native to Asia intersected with the virus. And now, around the world including in the United States, the mite has made Deformed Wing Virus a serious problem. Iowa State University researcher Adam Dolezal said bees are only semi-domesticated and therefore people have limited control over them. When they’re in a new place, bees fly around, and are particularly susceptible to unfamiliar threats.

Ground and processed poultry is contaminated with salmonella at much higher rates than whole birds, USDA figures show. (USDA/Flickr)
Ground and processed poultry is contaminated with salmonella at much higher rates than whole birds, USDA figures show. (USDA/Flickr)

Food safety regulators are hoping new rules will reduce the number of Americans sickened by salmonella bacteria found on the chicken they eat. Currently, salmonella is estimated to cause about 1 million illnesses a year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is cracking down on the amount of salmonella it will allow on certain poultry products. Poultry companies will be required to keep incidences of salmonella to under 15 percent of the chicken parts they produce under new standards released Thursday.

The USDA has had success in cutting the proportion of whole chickens found with salmonella. Now it’s focusing on cut-up chicken parts and on ground chicken and turkey, says James Dickson, a professor who studies food safety at Iowa State University.

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