WASHINGTON, Oct.29, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to help farmers and ranchers in the Midwest improve the health of honey bees. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is focusing the effort on five Midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
"The future of America's food supply depends on honey bees, and this effort is one way USDA is helping improve the health of honey bee populations," Vilsack said. "Significant progress has been made in understanding the factors that are associated with Colony Collapse Disorder and the overall health of honey bees, and this funding will allow us to work with farmers and ranchers to apply that knowledge over a broader area."
An estimated $15 billion worth of crops is pollinated by honey bees, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables, according to USDA. Today’s announcement expands a successful $3 million pilot investment that was announced earlier this year.
Funding will be provided to producers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and applications are due Friday, November 21.
From June to September, the Midwest is home to more than 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country.
The USDA funding is intended to help farmers and ranchers implement conservation practices that will provide diverse food sources for honey bees. USDA noted that 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, and providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators.
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