USDA gives $8 million in incentives for bee habitats
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $8 million in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) incentives for Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin farmers and ranchers who establish new habitats for declining honey bee populations.
More than half of the country’s commercially managed honey bees are in these five states during the summer.
The announcement came in addition to $3 million USDA designated to the Midwest states to support bee populations earlier this year through the Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
“American agricultural production relies on having a healthy honey bee population,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “In recent years, factors such as diseases, parasites, pesticides or habitat loss have contributed to a significant decline in the honey bee population. This $8 million is part of the administration’s ongoing strategy to reverse these trends and establish more plant habitat on Conservation Reserve Program lands to restore the bee population.”
The new CRP pollinator initiative allows for managing or replacing existing vegetation, known as “covers,” with lower cost, high nutrition seed mixes that can support blooming cycles of plants that benefit pollinators.
Honey bees are the pollinator workhorse of U.S. fruit and vegetable agriculture. More than $15 billion worth of agricultural production, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables, depend on the health and well-being of honey bees.
The honey bee population in the U.S. has been declining for decades. The number of managed U.S. honey bee colonies dropped from 6 million in 1947, to just 2.5 million today.
Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will co-chair a new Pollinator Health Task Force to focus federal efforts to conduct research and take action to help pollinators recover from population losses.
This includes a public education campaign to teach people ways that they can help pollinators in their own homes or businesses.
For more information, contact your local Farm Service Agency office or go online at www.fsa.usda.gov.