Farmers, Ranchers, Forest Landowners Protect Pollinator Habitat

Clint Thompson Florida, Pollinators

By Florida’s USDA NRCS State Conservationist Juan Hernandez and USDA FSA State Executive Director Sherry McCorkle 

The next time you snack on almonds, add blueberries to your smoothie or eat pumpkin pie, thank a pollinator and the farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners who work hard to create and maintain their habitat.

A honey bee buzzes around a sunflower. You can see the build-up of pollen on her rear leg, in what is called a pollen basket. This is how she stores pollen. When she brings the pollen back to the hive, the house bees press the pollen and make bee bread, which is the protein used to feed the nurse bee and immature bees.
USDA/ARS photo by Peggy Greb

Pollinators, such as honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies, birds, bats, flies and many others, play a critical role in crop production. Without pollinators, we wouldn’t have many crops.

During National Pollinator Week, June 22-28, the nation will celebrate these crucial pollinators. This year’s theme is “Pollinators, Plants, People and Planet.” Thirteen years ago, the U.S. Senate unanimously designated the third week in June as National Pollinator Week to increase awareness about the importance of pollinators and the challenges many face, including serious population declines and habitat losses, often due to land use changes and excessive or improper pesticide use. Nearly 200 species of pollinators are considered threatened or extinct.

The world of crop pollinators is a $20 billion a year industry. About 75% of crop plants are pollinated by billions of animals and insects every year. Many federal, state and local government agencies, non-government organizations and universities have launched extensive efforts to protect pollinators, especially honeybees and the Monarch butterfly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) works closely with farmers, forest landowners and other private landowners to increase pollinator habitat in targeted areas nationwide.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), offers financial incentives to agricultural producers and forest landowners who improve pollinator habitat by planting cover crops, wildflowers and native plants in buffers and areas not in production.

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) also can be used to enhance habitat to protect pollinators. Administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), this land conservation program removes environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plants species that will improve environmental health and quality.

As owners and stewards of the land, many farmers, ranchers and forest landowners manage their natural resources to achieve their production goals, they are protecting the rich and diverse ecology on or near their operations. When we protect pollinators, we protect our ability to grow food. We thank our agricultural producers who offer a haven for pollinators and grow the products we enjoy.

Whether you are a large commodity producer, a small and diverse organic producer or even a suburban homeowner, you can have an important role in saving pollinators in Florida.

You can help protect pollinators by doing the following:

  • Plant appropriate vegetation. Use conservation practices and create habitat that sustains and enhances pollinators on the farm, forest or the yard.
  • Use pesticides, herbicides and insecticides carefully on and off the farm, ranch and private forests. Keep your operation pollinator friendly.
  • Protect flowering plants and potential pollinator nesting sites such as areas of undisturbed ground and native vegetation.

Do your part to help protect pollinators. By taking action to diversify and beautify your operation or property, you could ensure that many fruits and vegetables are available and plentiful for future generations for years to come. For more information about pollinators and what you can do, please contact your local USDA service center.