By Alan Harman 2/25/14
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing close to $3 million in technical and financial assistance for Midwestern farmers and ranchers to help improve the health of bees.
The funding, focused investment to improve pollinator health, will be targeted in five Midwestern states, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the future security of America's food supply depends on healthy honey bees.
“Expanded support for research, combined with USDA's other efforts to improve honey bee health, should help America's beekeepers combat the current, unprecedented loss of honey bee hives each year,” he says.
Funding will be provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to promote conservation practices that will provide honey bees with pollen and nectar while providing benefits to the environment.
It follows studies showing beekeepers are losing about 30% of their honey bee colonies each year, up from historical norms of 10% to 15% overwintering losses experienced prior to 2006.
The new 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.
Midwestern states were chosen because from June to September the region is the resting ground for over 65% 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.
Applications are due by March 21.
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