Agriculture Secretary announces effort to improve pollinator health

Farm Forum

Huron (NRCS) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is launching a new effort to help farmers and ranchers plant bee forage. The intent is to improve the health of bees, which play an important role in crop production.

“America’s beekeepers are losing unprecedented numbers of honey bee hives each year,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Honey bee pollination is estimated to support more than $15 billion worth of agricultural production and commercial production of more than 130 fruits and vegetables that are the foundation of a nutritious diet in the United States. Not only do bees pollinate the crops that produce much of America’s food supply, but they are an important part of the rural ecosystem. “

This year, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide technical and financial assistance for interested farmers and ranchers in five Midwestern states of Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. 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.

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.

Applications are due April 18, 2014. Interested farmers and ranchers are encouraged to visit their local USDA Service Center to sign an application.

Midwestern states were chosen because from June to September the region is the resting ground for over 65 percent 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. Recent studies have shown that beekeepers are losing approximately 30 percent of their honey bee colonies each year.

For more information on this program, visit a local USDA service center, or the NRCS website at