THE U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service 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 Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
"Expanded support for research, combined with USDA's other efforts to improve honeybee health, should help America's beekeepers combat the current, unprecedented loss of honeybee hives each year," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
Funding will be provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to promote conservation practices that will provide honeybees 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% for 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 honeybees. 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 and inhibiting invasive species while providing quality forage and habitat for honeybees and other pollinators.
Midwestern states were chosen because from June to September, the region is the resting ground for more than 65% of commercially managed honeybees 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. More information on this program is available at www.nrcs.usda.gov.