Honey bee pollinator, Apis mellifera, foraging on a square stem plant (Melanthera nivea).
Pollinators play a crucial role in the reproduction of many plants, including many of the plants that provide our nation’s food, fiber, fuel and medicine. Animal pollinators, especially honey bees, are critical for producing of our food products. But despite their value, many pollinator species are in trouble. In an effort to fight population declines, NRCS is working with private landowners to establish habitat for pollinators through conservation.
Every June, NRCS joins organizations across the country to celebrate National Pollinator Week. National Pollinator Week was established in 2006, when the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to designate a week in June each year to celebrate pollinators and call for their conservation. The designation was a result of efforts by a diverse collaboration of non-government organizations, federal agencies and scientists to emphasize the importance and fragility of our pollinators. Since then, National Pollinator Week has grown to be an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles and other pollinators. This growing concern for pollinators is a sign of progress.
The 2014 Farm Bill continues to elevate pollinators as a high priority resource concern for USDA conservation programs, and USDA is incorporating pollinators into conservation planning nationwide. NRCS supports pollinators by working with private landowners to establish habitat, which provides both food and sanctuary for bees and other pollinators. Some of our pollinator conservation accomplishments include:
Since 2008, NRCS has revised all of its applicable conservation practice standards to include criteria for bee habitat, and we continue to refine these conservation efforts to further support bee pollinators.
During fiscal years 2009-2012, more than 256,000 conservation practices were installed on 42.7 million acres across the U.S., including:
$629.7M of Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) financial assistance used to hekp producers install conservation practices, many of which support pollinator habitat.
$94.9M dollars of Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) cost share used to help producers install practices that could support pollinator habitat.
During fiscal year 2013, 101,000 acres of field borders, 88,000 feet of hedgerows and 3,250 acres of conservation cover were contracted.
Conservation practices that address loss of foraging habitat for pollinators include: conservation cover, field borders and hedgerow planting. To learn more, contact your local field office.
Across the country, NRCS is working with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to improve strategies for habitat creation and to train NRCS staff on methods for pollinator conservation. With support from USDA, more than 2,500 NRCS staff and 38,000 farmers and partners have been trained since 2008.
The NRCS Plant Materials Program is conducting field trials on pollinator habitat creation at NRCS Plant Materials Centers across the U.S. These agency experts are testing how to establish hedgerows and wildflower meadows, learning which plants best support important pollinators, helping the native seed industry expand pollinator plant availability, and creating demonstrations to teach NRCS field staff.
NRCS, FSA, ARS, and USGS are collaborating on a project to assess the effectiveness of USDA conservation programs in providing pollen and nectar for honey bees, and assessing the health of honey bee colonies.
NRCS is a critical partner in the Monarch Joint Venture, and other collaborative efforts, to conserve the iconic Monarch butterfly migration. NRCS is a member of the Venture’s steering committee that helps guide the Venture’s work.