Today, during National Pollinator Week, USDA announced two initiatives to support the President's National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honeybees and Other Pollinators.
"Pollinators are small but mighty creatures who need our help as much as we need theirs, and that is why USDA is dedicating resources from all corners of our department to boost their habitat and better understand how to protect them," said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. "In addition to creating healthy habitat and food for pollinators through our conservation work, USDA research is leading to breakthroughs in pollinator survival that may reverse the declines we've seen over the past few decades. We look forward to continued collaboration with America's beekeepers and honey producers to ensure this work is meaningful and effective."
USDA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with two honey bee organizations, the American Honey Producers Association and the American Beekeeping Federation, to facilitate an ongoing partnership that will ensure USDA's conservation initiatives are as advantageous as possible to pollinators and that beekeepers understand how they can benefit from USDA's conservation and safety net programs.
FSA also plays a critical role in the delivery of programs that provide a safety net for beekeepers who experience losses due to natural disasters, and the agency administers the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program, which provides assistance for the loss of honeybee colonies, in excess of normal mortality, due to Colony Collapse Disorder or other natural causes. This MOU creates a framework to ensure ongoing, meaningful information sharing to help beekeepers and honey bees into the future.
In addition to this MOU, a thorough review of USDA's Conservation Reserve Program has revealed that farmers and ranchers across the country have created more than 15 million acres of healthy habitat and forage for pollinators through the Conservation Reserve Program. Of these, 269,000 acres are enrolled in a pollinator-specific initiative, but these creatures are also helped by several other CRP initiatives on private land that provide wildflowers, shrubs,and safe nesting sites through measures that are intended to improve water quality or create bird habitat.
USDA conducted the high-level review of existing conservation practices and other studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and universities to determine which voluntary conservation practices benefit pollinators. FSA continues to work with USGS to assess which strategies work best to support pollinator health, and future studies may indicate that additional acres also can be considered pollinator friendly.
In addition to CRP, other conservation programs like NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program have enabled landowners to make pollinator-friendly improvements on working lands. More than three dozen NRCS conservation practices, such as prescribed grazing and cover crops, can provide direct benefits to pollinators. In recent years, NRCS has launched targeted efforts to help honey bees and monarch butterflies to accelerate efforts to create habitat.
This fact sheet contains more information about USDA's work to keep pollinators buzzing and contributing to a diverse domestic and global food supply.