Today marks the start of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Pollinator Week, including a newly announced program—the Bee Better Certified program—to help farmers and ranchers inform consumers how their products are farmed in ways that benefit bees.
Funded by a grant from the USDA and with support from the agency’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Xerces Society partnered with Oregon Tilth to develop and launch the Bee Better Certified program. The Xerces Society is a non-profit environmental organization focused on the conservation of invertebrates.
Pollinators like bees, bats and butterflies are a critical but increasingly endangered component in the nation’s food pyramid. It’s estimated that honeybees add at least $15 billion a year in value to about 90 crops by increasing yields and helping to ensure superior-quality harvests. Those crops include nuts, fruits, berries and vegetables.
Since the 1940s, however, it’s reported that honeybee hives have declined from six million to about 2.5 million today. A similar story is told for bat and butterfly populations, all threatened by habitat loss, pesticide use and exposure to threats from parasites and disease.
“About two-thirds of the country is privately owned, meaning the land management choices of our nation’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners can have positive impacts from pollinators,” NRCS Acting Chief Leonard Jordan said of the unveiling of the Bee Better Certified program. “We’re inspired by the many men and women who step up and voluntarily implement conservation practices on their land, which benefits bees and other pollinators as well as our soil, water and air.”
The new program will offer incentives for farmers to improve and expand pollinator habitat on their property, as well as organic strategies for reducing pesticide usage to control pests.
Photo credit: A bee pollinates a blossom in the almond orchard on Paramount Farms in McFarland, California, on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)