USDA is launching a program aimed at stemming a long-term decline in honeybee populations. Its goal: To encourage Upper Midwestern farmers and ranchers to improve critical bee habitat on pastures and rangeland.

The program, announced last week, will make $3 million available to farmers and ranchers in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The funds will be used to implement measures that will provide safe and diverse food sources for bees. They will come from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Commercial honeybees pollinate ag products worth about $15 billion each year. Recent studies have shown that U.S. beekeepers have lost approximately 30% of their colonies annually since 2006. Prior to that, the historical norm for overwintering losses was 10-15%/year.

The Midwestern region was chosen for the program because it provides resting ground for more than 65% of the commercially managed honeybees in the country from June to September. “It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter,” according to USDA officials.

Applications for participating in the program are due March 21. Learn more at the NRCS website.

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