General Mills, USDA team together on pollinator habitat

Five-year, $4 million financial commitment will help support farmers planting native wildflower field edges and flowering hedgerows.

General Mills, the Xerces Society, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announce a major milestone in their partnership to restore and protect pollinator habitat across hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in North America. The five-year, $4 million financial commitment between General Mills and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will support farmers across the U.S. by providing technical assistance to plant and protect pollinator habitat, such as native wildflower field edges and flowering hedgerows.

Through 2021, this partnership will help to plant over 100,000 acres of pollinator habitat. Providing habitat in agriculture landscapes has been shown to help a variety of pollinators, including bumble bees, squash bees, honey bees and butterflies, and provides benefits to crops that need insect pollinators. Such habitat can also improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and provide habitat for game and songbirds.

"Two-thirds of the continental United States is privately owned, making the land management decisions of America's farmers, ranchers and forest landowners essential to pollinator health," NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. "Agricultural producers can make relatively simple tweaks on working lands that benefit bees, butterflies and other pollinators while improving the operation as a whole. NRCS offers more than three dozen conservation practices that can benefit pollinators, and this partnership will enable us to better plan and implement these practices."

In North America alone, bees are responsible for over $25 billion in agricultural production each year. In addition to improving the yield of many crop species, research demonstrates that pollinators such as bees may also improve the nutritional value and commercial quality of some crops.

"Pollinators supply one-third of the food and beverages that Americans consume," said Jerry Lynch, chief sustainability officer at General Mills. "As part of General Mills' global commitment to treat the world with care, our investment will help pollinators to continue to play a key role in sustainable food production in the U.S."

To create and accelerate habitat restoration for pollinators, this partnership will support six Xerces/NRCS Pollinator Conservation Biologists jointly managed by the NRCS and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the largest and oldest pollinator conservation organization in the world. This biologist team will support U.S. farmers by providing individual consulting on habitat restoration and pollinator-friendly farm management practices, evaluate habitat, and serve as advisors to other conservation agency staff in the regions they serve. The biologists will be based in California, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Maine.

"To date, our work with NRCS has resulted in hundreds of thousands of acres of new or improved habitat," said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society. "This partnership will allow us to expand conservation support in the Midwest, Northeast and California, reaching many more farmers and bringing greater benefits to the pollinators on which we all rely." 

For more information about pollinator conservation and to get involved, visit www.xerces.org or www.nrcs.usda.gov/pollinators .

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