Monarch butterfly eating on a flower USDA photo by Charles Bryson

Farmers for Monarchs launched

Collaboration brings conservationists and agriculture industry together to help monarch butterfly.

Farmers For Monarchs, a broad-based collaboration aimed at addressing on-farm conservation efforts, was launched at Commodity Classic, America’s largest farmer-led convention and trade show. This unprecedented, united effort by farmers, ranchers, landowners, the agriculture industry, conservation groups and others seeks to encourage and enable the voluntary expansion and establishment of pollinator and conservation habitat. The initiative includes planting milkweed and other habitat along the monarch butterfly's seasonal migration route in North America.  

“This is a unique moment in time for pollinator health and populations. There are many factors impacting declines in monarch population; loss of habitat is one of them,” said Peter S. Berthelsen, coordinator for The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund Partnership. “That’s why farmers can make huge a huge difference by identifying the opportunities within their current farm and ranch operation that can benefit and support their habitat needs.”

Every fall, monarch butterflies from the upper Midwest migrate up to 3,000 miles to spend the winter in Mexico. Upon their return in the spring, monarchs need milkweed plants along their migration route to lay their eggs, because the plants are the only source of food their young will eat.

Monarch butterflies face many challenges that have contributed to a significant decline in the overwintering population compared to the 20-year average, including: loss of breeding and food habitats along the migration route, weather and climate change, predators, pathogens, parasites and less overwintering habitat in Mexico.

“Farmers For Monarchs is among the broadest voluntary efforts to date aimed at connecting farmers and ranchers to the education and resources they need to leverage the benefits of planting and restoring pollinator and conservation habitats, including milkweed, on their lands,” said Chris Novak, chief executive officer of the National Corn Growers Assn., one of more than a dozen partners in Farmers For Monarchs. “Farmers are always seeking win-win solutions, and this initiative fits the bill. Finding innovative ways to provide habitat for beneficial species, including birds, bees and other pollinators, fits with our goals of balancing economic and environmental sustainability.”

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services (FWS) is currently evaluating monarch conservation efforts along the migration route. In June 2019, it will determine its final listing decision for the monarch and, possibly, its habitat under the Endangered Species Act. A listing could potentially affect the way farmers manage their land in the future. Voluntary efforts to establish and restore monarch habitat could lead to reversing population losses that could hopefully render a listing unnecessary.

Farmers For Monarchs emphasized the importance for farmers and ranchers to establish and expand monarch habitat in the 2018 and 2019 growing seasons so these efforts can factor into the decision FWS makes. Farmers can help by:

  • Planting habitat on non-farming areas;
  • Working with conservation partners;
  • Voluntarily registering habitat, and
  • Joining local, state or federal incentive programs.

Farmers can visit for more resources and information on conservation efforts.

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