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Press Release

Amongst the Butterflies: Carolina Producers and Their Efforts in Saving Crucial Pollinator Habitats.

Honeybee in flower

Pollinator habitats face crucial challenges in today's modern world, but agricultural producers are investing in these habitats to give our bees and others a fighting chance. 

RALEIGH, N.C.,– National pollinator week started 14 years ago with a unanimous approval from the United States Senate and has since become an international celebration. The weeklong observance recognizes the important contributions of the world’s bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, moths, wasps, and flies. Three-fourths of the worlds flowering plants depend on pollinators to reproduce. Most fruit, vegetable, seed crops and other plants that provide fiber, medicines and fuel are pollinated by animals. Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators.

The United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) offers a wide variety of conservation practices that agricultural producers can choose from. Several of these practices can also benefit pollinators while addressing additional natural resource concerns. Some of the more common practices that USDA-NRCS in North Carolina are Wildlife Habitat Planting, Early Successional Habitat Development Management, and Herbaceous Weed Treatment. 

Practices

Wildlife Habitat Planting (Code 420) is used to create herbaceous or shrubby wildlife habitat in areas that are currently being used for other purposes (e.g., crops or pasture). Additionally, this practice is used to convert existing poor-quality habitat to high quality habitat. In that planting design, blooming forbs and native grasses can be used for pollinators and monarch butterflies.

Early Successional Habitat Development/Management (Code 647) involves manipulating a stand of plants to create and maintain early successional attributes that benefit desired wildlife and/or natural communities. This practice increases plant community diversity and provides habitat for early successional plant and animal species.

Herbaceous Weed Treatment (Code 315) is the removal or control of herbaceous weeds including invasive, noxious, prohibited, or undesirable plants. This practice can enhance the quality and quantity of forage, restore wildlife habitat, protect soils from erosion, reduce fuel loads and wildfire hazards, and control pervasive plants on the site.

These practices are part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program or EQIP. EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that helps producers in a way that makes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. 

While these are common practices in the state there are plenty of other conservation standard practices that benefit pollinators and their habitats, such as Field Border, Filter Strip, or Riparian Herbaceous Cover. These practices offer habitat spaces for pollinators along with a protecting other natural resource concerns such as soil health and water quality.

How to Apply

Working with NRCS involves five easy steps. A producer that may be interested in establishing a pollinator habitat should first visit with their local field office. NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you. To get started on applying for financial assistance, there are several options for an applicant. Applications can be received by e-mail, mail, fax, in person, through farmers.gov, and by telephone.

Applicants will be required to provide an official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID) and a property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property. All this information is required to establish eligibility. 

Once eligibility has been established NRCS will rank your application against other similar eligible applications in the same ranking pool. In the ranking process NRCS measures the environmental benefit the conservation plan will offer and gives the applicant a score. Selection is made based on the applications with the highest scores and how much funds have been allocated to a specific “fund pool.”

If an applicant is selected, they can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done; or they can decide not to proceed with a contract. There is no penalty for canceling an application if the contract is not yet signed. However, canceling a contract could lead to liquidated damages in an amount equal to 10 percent of the total financial assistance obligated to the participant in the contract. Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then they will have a specified amount of time to implement those practices. 

Investments Made

It is no secret that pollinator populations have declined rapidly over several decades. Habitat loss disease, parasites, environmental contaminants among others have all contributed to the decline of many species of pollinators. Agricultural producers in North Carolina have made significant strides in protecting and enhancing pollinator habitats. 

Since 2020 producers in the state have implemented over $1.25 million dollars amongst the three more popular conservation practices. These dollars have treated over 10 thousand acres, the investments made have ensure that pollinators will have a healthy and productive environment in North Carolina.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. To get started, please visit your local USDA Service Center. To find the nearest center visit USDA Service Center Locator.

 

 

 

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