Skip Navigation

News Release

USDA to Invest $4 million for Honey Bees on Private Lands

Michigan one of six states receiving funding

EAST LANSING, Oct. 7, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of $4 million in assistance for farmers and forest landowners working to improve food sources for honey bees on private lands in Midwestern and northern plains states including Michigan.

The targeted conservation effort by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service aims to improve the health of this critical pollinator in a region where more than two-thirds of the nation’s honey bee population spends the summer months, pollinating crops and building strength to survive winter.

“Over the past two years farmers all across Michigan have utilized this funding to create foraging areas for honey bees and other pollinators,”  said NRCS State Conservationist Garry Lee. “Michigan farmers realize how important honey bees are to our state’s fruit and vegetable production.”

Honey bees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of crops annually, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables. One out of every three bites of food in the United States depends on honey bees and other pollinators. But honey bee populations have suffered significant declines in recent years.

NRCS is working with landowners in Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin to make bee-friendly conservation improvements to their land, such as planting cover crops, wildflowers or native grasses and improving management of grazing lands.  From June to September this six-state region is home to more than 70 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. These are critical months when bee colonies need abundant and diverse forage to store enough food for winter.

Landowners will utilize targeted funding to boost available food for honey bees on around 2,200 acres in  34 Michigan counites. Planting wildflowers, native grasses and cover crops like buckwheat, mustard, clover and sunflowers provides high value food for honey bees. Cover crops also increase soil nutrients, break pest cycles and increase organic matter in the soil. NRCS also works with landowners to ensure pasturelands include a good variety of legumes, forbs and shrubs that also provide pollen and nectar.

These conservation improvements not only benefit the bees, they also strengthen agricultural operations, support other beneficial insects and wildlife, and improve other natural resources. Appropriate cover crops and better rangeland and pasture management reduce erosion, increase soil health, inhibit the expansion of invasive species and provide food and habitat for insects and wildlife.

The 2014 Farm Bill’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program program provides funding for this work. NRCS accepts EQIP applications on a continuous basis. Landowners interested in participating should contact their local USDA service center to learn more.