October 29, 2014
On October 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $4 million in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding for financial and technical assistance to help farmers promote and protect honey bee health and habitat.
The funding is a renewal and expansion of the $3 million in EQIP money set aside this year for pollinator protection. The EQIP funding is available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Producers in those states have until Friday, November 21 to apply.
In order to target honey bees in particular, the funding is limited primarily to the Midwest, which serves as the summer resting ground for approximately 65 percent of commercially raised honey bees nationally. In the case of the $3 million that NRCS allocated earlier this year, extra ranking points were awarded for land that is in close proximity to honey bee apiaries. Producers also ranked higher if they planted multiple honey bee forage species. We expect the same ranking criteria to be used for this latest round of funding.
The funding will be used to encourage on-farm adoption of practices that help pollinators and producers alike, like cover crops or pasture management that can provide sources of bee food and habitat while reducing erosion and improving soil health.
The funding comes as part of a larger effort to promote bee health and habitat conservation in the face of rapidly declining pollinator populations. Abrupt reduction in pollinator numbers prompted a Presidential Memorandum in June, and a letter from Congressional Democrats last month calling for action on neonicotinoids—a class of pesticides believed to be contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
EQIP is not the only USDA program offering incentives for pollinator health and habitat conservation. For farmers and ranchers wanting to promote bee health within and outside of the five states targeted by this EQIP initiative, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) offers a pollinator habitat enhancement option.
For more information on CSP and EQIP, visit the NRCS website.
Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment