Nearly $3 million in technical assistance will be provided to farmers and ranchers looking to improve bee health, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service announced Tuesday.
The funding is a focused investment to improve pollinator health and will be targeted in five Midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Bee health has been under scrutiny recently by the USDA and others looking for answers to an ongoing decline in populations. Bees assist agriculture naturally through crop pollination.
"Honey bee pollination supports an estimated $15 billion worth of agricultural production, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables that are the foundation of a nutritious diet. The future security of America's food supply depends on healthy honey bees," Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack noted in a press announcement.
"Expanded support for research, combined with USDA's other efforts to improve honey bee health, should help America's beekeepers combat the current, unprecedented loss of honey bee hives each year," he added.
Funding will be provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to promote conservation practices that will provide honey bees with nutritious pollen and nectar while providing benefits to the environment.
Recent studies have shown that beekeepers are losing approximately 30% of their honey bee colonies each year, up from historical norms of 10% to 15% overwintering losses experienced prior to 2006.
This assistance will provide guidance and support to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees, USDA said.
For example, appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management may provide a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators, as well as habitat for other wildlife.