USDA announces $3m for new pollinator health program

USDA-NRCS will provide close to $3m in technical assistance for farmers and ranchers in five midwestern states to help improve the health of bees.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide close to $3 million in technical and financial assistance for interested farmers and ranchers to help improve the health of bees, which play an important role in crop production.

The funding is a focused investment to improve pollinator health and will be targeted in five midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

"Expanded support for research, combined with USDA's other efforts to improve honey bee health, should help America's beekeepers combat the current, unprecedented loss of honey bee hives each year," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Funding will be provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to promote conservation practices that will provide honey bees with nutritious pollen and nectar while providing benefits to the environment. Recent studies have shown that beekeepers are losing approximately 30% of their bee colonies each year, up from historical norms of 10-15% overwintering losses experienced prior to 2006.

This assistance will provide guidance and support to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. For example, appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management may provide a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators, as well as habitat for other wildlife.

Midwestern states were chosen because from June to September the region is the resting ground for more than 65% of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter.

Applications are due March 21.

For more information on this program, visit the NRCS website.

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