Bee Protection Shouldn’t Hurt Your Bottom Line

Posted: March 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

And for savvy farmers, it doesn’t have to. Farmers can get compensated for pollinator protection- even in the Midwest.Bee_Honey_Comb-221211-edited.jpgEvery day It seems, we are reminded that, in any number of ways, we are killing off the Monarch Butterflies, Honeybees, Rusty Patched Bumble Bees, or any other pollinator that can get people’s attention. It’s blamed on pesticides, neonicotinoids, intensive farming practices, and just about any other activity that farmers, especially row crop farmers, do to produce a robust food supply.

Have our practices contributed to some of the decline? It’s likely that they have. We’ve planted more monocultures, removed trees and hedgerows, turned pasture ground into crop ground, and become very good at eliminating “pests” where we don’t want them. The situation is complex, and there isn’t one single cause that can be pointed to, but these and other small changes have likely contributed to a devastating overall effect.

The reality that some people miss is that most of us don’t spend much time thinking about the importance of bees, especially in the Midwest. We may see hives once in a while, but for the middle of the country, most top crops- from corn and soybeans to wheat and rice, are pollinated by the wind or other environmental factors, and bees aren’t top of mind in terms of protecting our businesses.

For farmers who live in other areas, however, like those that raise nuts, tomatoes, berries, clover, or anything else that needs pollinators to survive, these issues are critical. The economic value of wild pollinators to agriculture is estimated at over $3 billion according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and over 80% of pollination is done commercially, supporting an industry worth well over $15 billion. And that doesn’t include the value pollinators provide to wildlife and ecosystems that we enjoy and depend on. Needless to say, bees and other pollinators are big business, and doing more to protect wild populations will pay dividends for the industry in the future. Other farmers need our help, but sacrificing the viability of our farms to (hopefully) lower the impact on pollinators isn’t an option.

The good news is that protecting pollinators doesn’t require giving up the tools of modern agriculture heavy-handedly. The Butterfly Effect, that small changes can have huge impacts, has worked against us on this subject up until this point, but with small, positive changes, we can turn that around, and hopefully help turn devastation into recovery for pollinator populations.

And now is the time for farmers to get involved.

It’s time for the corn and bean states to show that we care about the pollinator population and start doing some basic things to help increase the biodiversity. USFWS has some basic things one can do at You’ve heard of many of them- planting a garden, reducing chemical use, using native plants in landscaping (Bayer AG and Syngenta also have good tips on how to provide pollinator habitat).

There are actually ways you can use 2014 Farm Bill programs to be compensated for pollinator conservation. The programs are part of the NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentive Programs (EQIP), and your farm could be eligible for up to $20,000 in NCRS payments in a single year, for pollinator protection and other conservation activities. These programs vary by state, and you can learn more about what programs you could be eligible for here. You can also get assistance with planning and implementing your pollinator protection plan through your local NRCS office. Or learn about enhancing your existing conservation programs to support pollinators through CSP here. Pre-proposals are due in April, so now’s the time to start thinking about your 2017 season.

What does this mean? It means we have an exciting opportunity to turn those small and marginal areas of our fields into abundant habitats that can help completely change and revolutionize the pollinator habitat and health in agriculture, without sacrificing our profitability. Small changes can have large effect.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and not those of Farmer’s Business Network, Inc., its affiliates or members.

This article was originally published on Emergence by Farmers Business Network, Inc.

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