USDA Announces Measures for Pollinator Health

Kelly MarshallBees, CRP, Honeybees, USDA

usda-logoWhat better time than during National Pollinator Week for the USDA to announce two new initiatives to support the President’s National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honeybees and Other Pollinators.  To date the most popular conservation program has resulted in at least 15 million acres of healthy habitat for pollinators.  The USDA is also beginning a new partnership with honeybee organizations to continue conservation efforts to benefit these important species.

“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. For several years, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have worked closely with these groups and others to help improve habitat for honeybees and other pollinators in various conservation programs. The National Strategy emphasized the need for public-private partnerships like this one to expeditiously expand pollinator-health initiatives to achieve the scale necessary to make meaningful and long-term improvements.

FSA is also a part of assisting beekeepers during natural disasters.  This work creates a safety net and offers the opportunity for researchers to learn more about the impact of the USDA’s programs.

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is responsible for 15 million acres of forage for pollinators- 269,000 of which are pollinator-specific.  The President’s initiative called for 7 million acres enhanced for pollinators, so the USDA tripled enrollment in the pollinator program.  In that program they help cover the costs of planting wildflowers, legumes and shrubs for pollinators.

In addition to these efforts, the USDA is also studying which conservation practices are most beneficial to the work of protecting pollinators.  Other branches, such as the U.S. Forest Service and Agricultural Research Service are also working to meet the President’s goals.  There is even a bee cam for watching bees live.  You can read about the collective efforts here.