Four million dollars in technical and financial assistance from the USDA will go to five Midwestern states to help farmers and ranchers improve the health of honey bees, important pollinators that contribute to food production, the agency said Wednesday.
"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," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the announcement.
USDA says an estimated $15 billion worth of crops is pollinated by honey bees, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables.
Vilsack said research to date has helped the agency understand Colony Collapse Disorder, an issue affecting honey bees and leading to bee deaths. The funding announced Wednesday will help broaden farmer and rancher education on the subject.
The latest funding effort is focused on Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. It expands and renews a previous $3 million pilot investment that was announced earlier this year.
The funding also contributes to a June 2014 Presidential Memorandum – Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators – which directs USDA to expand the acreage and forage value in its conservation programs.
Funding will be provided to producers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Applications, due Nov. 21.
It will provide guidance and support to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. These include appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management efforts that may provide additional benefits 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.
In addition, USDA says it is actively pursuing solutions to the multiple problems affecting honey bee health across several USDA agencies.
Efforts encompass research, disease surveys, habitat studies and conservation practices that can improve honey bee health.