USDA Funding Aims to Lift Declining Honey Bee Population

The USDA secures the food supply by assisting honey bees with pollinator initiatives.
The USDA secures the food supply by assisting honey bees with pollinator initiatives.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced additional incentives for five Midwest states to establish honey bee habitats.

Farmers and ranchers in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin who establish new habitats for decreasing honey bee populations will receive $8 million in Conservation Research Program (CRP) incentives. More than half of the commercially managed honey bees are located in these five states during the summer months.

In an effort to explain the importance of the new CRP initiative, Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary, said, "American agricultural production relies on having a healthy honey bee population. In recent years, factors such as diseases, parasites, pesticides or habitat loss have contributed to a significant decline in the honey bee population. This $8 million is part of the Administration's ongoing strategy to reverse these trends and establish more plant habitat on Conservation Reserve Program lands to restore the bee population."

This incentive program will provide better access to nutritious pollinator forage by enhancing existing CRP land. With the managing and replacing of existing vegetation at lower costs, high nutrition seed mixes can help blooming cycles of plants to benefit pollinators. Honey bees are the pollinator workhorse of U.S. fruits and vegetables and will have more blooms to collect nectar and pollen. This will help maintain and encourage colony growth and honey production throughout the growing season.

President Obama recently issued a memorandum directing U.S. government agencies to take further actions to secure domestic populations of pollinators, including honey bees. Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Gina McCarthy, will co-chair a new Pollinator Health Task Force to research and take steps to help sustain pollinator populations.

Because more than $15 billion of agriculture production depends on the well being of honey bees, the USDA continues to protect the food supply by aiding honey bees with the ongoing pollinator initiatives.