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MADISON - Farmers and landowners can contact their local U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office to sign up now, through June 2, 2017, for honey bee pollinator habitat financial assistance. Funding is provided through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications are being taken at all USDA Service Centers in Wisconsin to improve the health of honey bees, which play an important role in crop production.

“The future of America’s food supply depends on honey bees, and this effort is one way NRCS is helping improve the health of honey bee populations,” said Angela Biggs, State Conservationist in Wisconsin. “Significant progress has been made in understanding overall health of honey bees, and this funding will allow us to work with farmers and ranchers to apply that knowledge over a broader area.”

An estimated $15 billion worth of crops is pollinated by honey bees, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables. USDA’s NRCS is focusing the effort in five Midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

From June to September, the Midwest is home to more than 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter.

The 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. For example, appropriate cover crops and pasture management may provide a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, and providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators.

For more on technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit wi.nrcs.usda.gov/programs or a local USDA service center.

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