Farmers and ranchers who establish new habitats for declining honey bee populations may qualify for federal funds to do so. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $8 million in Conservation Reserve Program incentives for Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
The new pollinator initiative is designed to enhance current conservation land by managing or replacing existing vegetation with native wildflower seed mixes that can support blooming cycles of plants that benefit bees.
The honey bee population, in managed colonies, has been declining for decades and dropped from 6 million in 1947 to about 2.5 million in 2014. The problem has been linked to factors that include diseases, parasites, pesticides and habitat loss.
Bees and other pollinators are critical to the growth of over 130 fruits and vegetables, according to federal researchers, and $15 billion in agricultural production.
Last week, President Obama directed U.S. government agencies to take additional steps to protect and restore domestic populations of honey bees. That effort will include a Pollinator Health Task Force and a public education campaign to teach people how to help pollinators near their homes and businesses.
For more information about the new initiative, farmers should contact their local Farm Service Agency office or go online at www.fsa.usda.gov.