Hurricane Michael could sour Florida’s tupelo honey harvest
By JENNIFER KAY
Monday, October 22
MIAMI (AP) — Hurricane Michael toppled beehives and stripped flowering plants across Florida’s Panhandle, threatening tupelo honey production in a tiny community that is the primary source of the sweet delicacy.
Tanker trucks of corn syrup and tens of thousands of pounds of synthetic pollen are being rushed to beekeepers from the Gulf of Mexico to the Georgia state line to feed surviving bee colonies that also pollinate crops such as watermelons, cantaloupes and blueberries.
“Just feeding my bees is the biggest concern,” said Gary Adkison, a Wewahitchka beekeeper. “There’s no nectar.”
Adkison, who named his Blue-Eyed Girl Honey for his granddaughter, lost about 50 of his 150 hives to the storm, each containing 30,000 to 40,000 bees. Unlike other beekeepers who move their colonies to pollinate crops as far away as California, Adkison keeps his hives local year-round.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect this much damage,” he said.
About 500 beekeepers are registered in Florida’s Panhandle, with more than 1.2 billion bees in their colonies, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. They range from hobbyists to mom-and-pop businesses to large commercial operations.
Although Florida also produces honey from orange blossoms, gallberries and wildflowers, the honey from white tupelo gum trees ranks highest in price and flavor.
The trees grow in remote swamps in northwestern Florida and southern Georgia, but are most profuse along the Apalachicola River in Florida’s Gulf County. The heart of tupelo honey production is Wewahitchka, a one-stoplight town about 15 miles (25 kilometers) inland from where Michael made landfall Oct. 10 with 155-mph (250-kph) winds.
“Everybody has a jar of it on their kitchen table,” Adkison said.
Now, he added, everyone worries how Michael would affect the star of the annual Tupelo Honey Festival, which draws thousands of people in May.
Van Morrison’s song about a girl “as sweet as tupelo honey, just like honey from the bee” captures its distinct nature: True tupelo honey is bottled more or less straight from the hive, without heating or blending with other honeys. It does not crystalize, remaining a smooth, golden liquid.
“It’s got a fruity, floral burst of flavor,” said Brian Bertonneau, owner of Wewahitchka-based Smiley Honey. “It’s just a happy dance in your mouth.”
The trees bloom for only three weeks starting in mid-April.
Beekeepers and business owners like Bertonneau, whose operations shut down without electricity or internet access after Michael, are anxious to find out what kind of spring harvest they should expect.
“The blossoms are so fragile, they’re like little snowballs,” Bertonneau said. “A heavy wind or rain will knock them off the tree.”
Michael’s toll on tupelos is as yet unclear because the trees are difficult to reach except by barge and considerable debris remains to be cleared.
David Westervelt, a state apiary inspection supervisor, said damaged trees might take two or three years to start blooming again.
“We haven’t ever had a storm hit like that, so we don’t really know,” Westervelt said.
The 2018 harvest was especially rich in flavor, though not particularly high in volume, beekeepers said. Westervelt estimated not quite 1 million pounds (0.45 million kilograms) of tupelo honey were produced last year, selling for about $6 and up per pound.
Two days after Michael made landfall, an Associated Press photographer found Ben Lanier tending to his hives in spite of fallen trees and other debris in Wewahitchka bee yards kept in his family for three generations.
L.L. Lanier and Sons Tupelo Honey has been in business since the 1890s, and in a Facebook post Thursday, Lanier and his wife said the hurricane would not shut them down.
“The bees were all over the place and our house is almost a total loss,” the post said. “It has been very hard to get generators and gas, but one way or the other we will get back in business.”
Adkison said all he could do was focus on feeding his surviving bees.
“We are small-time,” he said. “If we have a bad year, I’ll just have to take care of my bees and wait until the next year.”
America’s archaeology data keeps disappearing – even though the law says the government is supposed to preserve it
October 17, 2018
Author: Keith Kintigh, Professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University
Disclosure statement: Keith Kintigh serves, uncompensated, on the Board of Directors of the Center for Digital Antiquity.
Partners: Arizona State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Archaeology – the name conjures up images of someone carefully sifting the sands for traces of the past and then meticulously putting those relics in a museum. But today’s archaeology is not just about retrieving artifacts and drawing maps by hand. It also uses the tools of today: 3D imaging, LiDAR scans, GPS mapping and more.
Today, nearly all archaeological fieldwork in the U.S. is executed by private firms in response to legal mandates for historic preservation, at a cost of about a billion dollars annually. However, only a minuscule fraction of the data from these projects is made accessible or preserved for future research, despite agencies’ clear legal obligations to do so. Severe loss of these data is not unusual – it’s the norm.
Federally mandated projects yield massive amounts of irreplaceable data, particularly on Native American history. Those data are generated for the explicit purpose of benefiting the American public.
The primary data include things like counts of different kinds of artifacts; information on fragments of plant and animals found in fire pits; maps and photographs of ruined buildings; dates from charred roof beams; and the chemical composition of paint on pottery. This allows researchers to understand life in the past – inferring, for example, human population size and movement, social organization, trade and diet.
The data further enable archaeologists to study social processes that are important in today’s world, but that operate so slowly that they aren’t perceptible on time scales available in other social sciences. Why does migration occur? Why do migrant groups maintain their identities in some circumstances and adopt new ones in others? What factors have allowed some societies to persist over very long time periods?
However, this sort of synthetic research depends upon online access to a wealth of research data and unpublished technical reports. Access to these data also gives the researchers the ability to replicate the work of or correct errors by the original investigators.
What’s more, for many, ancestral sites are critical to maintaining identity and purpose in an increasing global world. Government agencies are responsible for appropriately managing sites for their scientific, cultural and educational values. But to do so effectively, they must have access to full documentation of past investigations.
Preserving the data
About 30,000 legally mandated archaeological investigations are conducted each year in the U.S. These projects are usually documented only in so-called “gray literature” reports that, in most cases, are not readily accessible, even to professional archaeologists.
The databases that contain the project data are even less frequently adequately documented, made accessible to other researchers or preserved in a way that will make them likely to be usable in a few years, much less 20 or 50 years. Data may be stored on media that degrade, like punch cards, floppy disks or magnetic tape. Hard disks on office computers or servers may fail, and database software can become obsolete, making the data unreadable. Data may become a victim to institutional housekeeping if files not used within a certain period of time are automatically deleted.
As a professional archaeologist and former president of the Society for American Archaeology, I believe that archaeologists have an ethical obligation to ensure that the digital records of what is discovered, like the artifacts, remain available for study in the future.
There are digital repositories expressly designed to make archaeological information discoverable, accessible and preserved permanently for future use. At my university, I led the initial development of the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR), which has been publicly available for eight years. tDAR allows archaeologists to directly upload databases, documents, photographs, GIS files and other necessary data. The cost to upload a document or image is typically US$5, while the cost for a database depends on its size. This includes costs of permanently preserving the file and making it continuously accessible.
A similar service is available through the University of York’s Archaeology Data Service in the U.K., which has been around for more than 20 years.
I believe that for all newly authorized projects, agencies must ensure that the full digital record of their archaeological investigations is deposited in a recognized digital repository. That information would then become available not only to researchers and agency personnel, but also to the public. The cost for doing this is about 1 to 3 percent of the archaeological project cost, with lower percentages for larger projects.
Agencies also need to begin properly curating the data from projects that have already been completed. Notably, at tDAR, this process has been started by a number of U.S. agencies, including the Air Force, the Army Corps of Engineers and a few offices at the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Park Service.
Federal agencies are already legally required to preserve the digital records of publicly funded archaeological investigations. They just aren’t doing it. To avoid this is to ignore not only their legal obligations and their obligations to the American public, it is to consign the data – and all that can be learned from them – to oblivion.
Government-funded buyouts after disasters are slow and inequitable – here’s how that could change
October 19, 2018
Author: A.R. Siders, Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University
Disclosure statement: A.R. Siders does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Destructive storms like Hurricanes Florence and Michael prompt difficult conversations about whether to rebuild or retreat. Retreat is an established part of U.S. flood management: Government agencies have been paying people to move out of harm’s way for several decades. But the process is flawed and needs to be improved.
Across the United States, “repetitive loss properties” that have been damaged and rebuilt multiple times using federal flood insurance payouts have cost the government, and taxpayers, more than US$12.1 billion. And the challenge is growing. Rising seas due to climate change may inundate 400 to 1,100 U.S. coastal cities in this century, affecting some 4 to 13 million Americans.
Sometimes the surest way to keep people safe is to relocate them out of the floodplain, a process called managed or strategic retreat. But when I reviewed some of the largest retreat programs in the United States, I found that the process is much less straightforward or fair than it should be. I also found ways to improve it.
Thousands of buyouts over 25 years
Since 1993, FEMA has spent just over $4 billion to buy roughly 40,000 homes in 1,100 communities across 44 states. The buildings are demolished and the land is required to be maintained as open space, perhaps a park or a wetland to absorb future flood waters. Other federal agencies also fund buyouts.
Some whole communities have relocated. They include midwest river towns such as Pattonsburg, Missouri, Valmeyer, Illinois and Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin. According to one 2017 report, 17 U.S. communities – mainly Native American – are in the process of relocating from low-lying islands and coastal areas to avoid flooding. Overall, FEMA does not have enough funding for buyouts to meet demand.
I recently reviewed eight of the largest U.S. buyout efforts to see how officials decided which homes to buy. It was a question I’d encountered while living in New York City during and after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. More than 2,500 people in New York City and state expressed interest in receiving buyouts, but only a few hundred received offers. I wanted to know why.
New Jersey residents whose homes suffered major damage from Superstorm Sandy have diverse reactions to buyout offers in this 2014 report.
Working the system
Buyouts typically are offered after disasters, when people are deciding whether to rebuild severely damaged homes and businesses or relocate away from the floodplain. Local and state governments have the authority to offer buyouts, so residents who can organize in groups and engage government agencies have the best chance of obtaining purchase offers. Officials don’t want to make offers until they’re sure a group of residents is willing to sell. They want to buy up big sections of land that can be converted to parks or wetlands, rather than scattered lots that are hard to maintain.
Even when communities ask to be bought out, officials may say no based on cost or potential property tax revenue losses. In such cases, residents may need to organize and petition, as some Staten Island neighborhoods did after Sandy.
A slow and confusing process
The buyout process is not transparent. Many people struggle to figure out whether their homes are eligible, based on information from websites, press releases and public documents. Some less-than-clear criteria include: “compatibility with community and natural values,” and “mutual (local and state government) understanding of the benefit” of the buyout.
Lack of transparency makes it hard for homeowners to make decisions about whether to wait for a buyout offer, or to trust the process. Even if they receive offers, it can take three to four years to finalize the purchase, which is longer than many people can afford to wait after losing their homes.
Seemingly straightforward policies can have unintended consequences. Federal flood risk management programs are required to be “cost-effective” in order to prevent overspending. However, it’s rarely cost-effective to build a $34 million flood wall in front of $100,000 homes, so flood management projects like this often end up protecting wealthy areas. Lower-income areas are left more exposed to damage from storms and flooding.
Similarly, buying out a $1 million home after a disaster makes less sense than buying ten $100,000 homes. As a result, low-income areas are more likely to be targeted for managed retreat after disasters. These communities tend to have high numbers of minority residents, due to past discriminatory policies and historic inequalities.
Helping communities that are at most risk and have the fewest resources could be a good policy, if it were done intentionally and in a way that addresses social equity. However, if these issues are not considered, flood mitigation policies can exacerbate racial and economic segregation by displacing low- and middle-income residents who can’t afford to spend large sums on climate-resilient homes.
Discrimination can also arise in other ways. After storms, assessors determine how much damage each house has sustained. If a house is “substantially damaged,” meaning that repairs would cost 50 percent of its assessed value, it must be relocated or elevated, which can be cost-prohibitive for owners. Low-value homes are more likely to sustain substantial damage. And owners who can’t afford to move or raise their houses may feel pressured to accept a buyout, although these offers are technically voluntary.
In some cases, officials have purposefully found more substantially damaged homes in low-income areas. Others have chosen not to enforce substantial damage findings in order to let people move back into their houses. This may seem charitable in the short term, but in the long run it leaves residents vulnerable to the next disaster.
Other researchers have found still more problems with U.S. buyouts. Purchased land is often left as derelict lots because local governments lack resources to maintain it. People whose homes are purchased may relocate to other floodplains, or to areas that are more socially vulnerable, reducing their children’s future earning potential.
Worst of all, even though more than a thousand communities have participated in buyouts over 30 years, research suggests there has been little effort to learn lessons and improve these programs over time.
Improving the process
Managed retreat is an important tool, and will only become more so as climate change intensifies storms and flooding. But the process needs reform.
Better communication could greatly improve the buyout process. Government officials need to make decisions more transparently about where and when to retreat, and should involve communities in these decisions to improve trust in the process. Conversations about retreat should address social inequality explicitly and discuss where people might relocate. Having these discussions before disasters strike would give people time to reflect without the emotional and financial stress of post-disaster recovery. It could also speed up the buyout process.
Federal agencies should facilitate peer-to-peer learning about the innovative ways some communities are using buyouts proactively to make people safer. And purchases can be structured to minimize local tax revenue losses.
Most importantly, Americans need to start having conversations about where federal tax dollars should be spent to protect coasts and where to retreat, before climate-driven disasters become the norm.
Neil S. Grigg, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University
Great article on this aspect of flood loss reduction. It’s been painful, but we’ve learned a lot of lessons about flood policy since the Flood Insurance Act of 1968. Siders’ wrap-up phrase is exactly what we need to do: “Most importantly, Americans need to start having conversations about where federal tax dollars should be spent to protect coasts and where to retreat, before climate-driven disasters become the norm.” The challenge is how to have those conversations in the midst of the political climate. Articles like this help a lot.
A.R. Siders, In reply to Neil S. Grigg
Thanks Neil! Conversations about retreat are difficult, but I hope we can start to re-frame retreat as an opportunity to transform our cities and coasts. What we need is climate-smart growth. Thanks for encouraging this conversation!
FACT CHECK: STEVE DETTELBACH WILL CONTINUE TO AGGRESSIVELY PROSECUTE CRIMINALS AS AG
CLEVELAND — Dettelbach for Ohio spokesperson Liz Doherty released the following statement in response to Dave Yost’s lie-filled TV attack on Steve Dettelbach’s prosecutorial record:
“This ad just hurls more unsubstantiated lies from Dave Yost, who is desperate to hide his record of doing favors for donors like ECOT and hurting Ohio kids. As the State Auditor, Yost should be ashamed of this ad. It’s just another example of his ECOT accounting. There’s not a single cite or documentation, and it doesn’t tell the truth.
“As a federal prosecutor for more than 20 years, Steve put child abusers, drug dealers, and human traffickers in jail, and he secured convictions against both Democrats and Republicans who broke the law. As the United States Attorney of the Northern District of Ohio, Steve and his prosecutors worked side-by-side with law enforcement to take down drug rings and get dangerous criminals off the streets. As the FOP-endorsed candidate in the Attorney General race, Steve will continue to aggressively prosecute the worst criminals to protect Ohio.”
Gary Wolske, President of Ohio Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) added:
“Dave Yost’s misleading ad is a typical politician’s attempt to save his sinking campaign and distract from his record of putting his donors first. As a federal prosecutor Steve was known for taking on tough cases to put away some of Ohio’s worst criminals — drug cartels, human traffickers, and child predators. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. Ohio cops trust Steve Dettelbach because they know he’ll protect Ohioans from dangerous criminals and corrupt politicians.”
Here are the facts:
ON STEVE’S CONVICTION RATE AS US ATTORNEY:
Under Steve’s leadership, the conviction rate in the Northern District approached 98 percent.
During Steve’s last two years as US Attorney, cases involving violent crime, immigration, and drugs accounted for nearly ⅔ of his office’s workload.
ON CASES INVOLVING FIREARMS:
Steve’s office filed nearly 1,100 indictments for gun crimes, with the average defendant being sentenced to more than six years.
That is an average of 176 indictments a year. That average is higher than the current office’s average since he left, and also higher than the four year average before he became US Attorney.
ON IMMIGRATION CASES:
Steve’s office handled hundreds of immigration cases, including a case where smugglers went to jail for trafficking teens to an egg farm in Ohio.
That case U.S. v Castillo-Serrano was recently featured on the PBS show Frontline. Under Steve’s leadership, prosecutors sent defendants to jail in this case for a variety of crimes, including encouraging illegal re-entry.
The current Trump-appointed United States Attorney, who Dettelbach appointed to run the national security unit during his tenure, has publicly stated that he has maintained the same immigration charging guidelines used under Dettelbach’s tenure.
ON DRUG CASES:
Under Steve’s leadership, the Northern District Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF Unit), which handles narcotics trafficking cases in the Northern District of Ohio, indicted 1,455 people and earned 1,285 convictions.
In every year, the OCDETF unit under Dettelbach was one of the top-performing and most productive units in the midwest. Based on that record, the head of Dettelbach’s drug unit, Joe Pinjuh, was personally selected by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to help run the national narcotics program in the Trump Department of Justice (DOJ).
In 2014, only the units in Miami and Los Angeles indicted and convicted more criminals.