June 20, 2014
On Friday, June 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of $8 million in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) incentives for Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin farmers and ranchers who establish new habitats for declining honey bee populations on their existing CRP acres. These five states are home for more than half of the commercially managed honey bees during the summer and are therefore a critical focus in efforts to restore honey bee habitat.
The new CRP pollinator initiative, administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), is designed to further enhance existing CRP land, allowing for it to provide honey bees with better access to pollinator forage. Through the program, producers can manage or replace existing vegetation with lower cost, high nutrition seed mixes for plants that provide the specific blooming cycles needed to benefit pollinators.
Such habitats will provide honey bees with more blooms from which they can collect nectar and pollen to sustain and promote colony growth and honey production throughout the growing season. Today’s announced CRP pollinator initiative takes advantage of new seed mixes that were developed by NRCS.
Agriculture Relies on the Bees
Now is a critical time to support the honey bee populations that have been declining for decades. Since 1947, the number of managed honey bee colonies in the U.S. has dropped from 6 million to just 2.5 million today. More than $15 billion worth of agricultural production across the country, including over 130 different fruits and vegetables, depend on the health and well-being of the honey bees.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted the critical role that honey bees play in sustaining agricultural production. “American agricultural production relies on having a healthy honey bee population. In recent years, factors such as diseases, parasites, pesticides or habitat loss have contributed to a significant decline in the honey bee population.”
Secretary Vilsack explained that the new CRP incentives in these states is part of an ongoing strategy to reverse these trends by establishing more plant habitat to restore the bee population in this region of critical habitat.
Additional Pollinator Habitat Incentive Options
National Pollinator Initiatives
Also on May 20, the White House announced a new Pollinator Health Task Force to focus federal efforts to on research and action aimed at helping pollinators recover from serious population decline. Secretary Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will co-chair the task force, which will focus on research, public education, and public-private partnerships, while continuing to increase and improve pollinator habitats.
For more information about the new pollinator initiative in the five Midwestern states, the continuous CRP enrollment period, and the pollinator habitat initiative, producers should contact their local FSA office.
Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment