General Mills / NRCS / Xerces Society Partnership FAQ’s
Why are these three partners joining together to help pollinators?
The three partners recognize the importance of pollinators to our economy and food systems, and also the threats these important insects face. General Mills, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation share a commitment to bringing lasting change to the American landscape to help pollinators prosper. The partnership will work with farmers to provide habitat and safe refuge for pollinators and, in return, the farmers will gain from the pollination that these animals provide.
Why are pollinators the focus of this partnership?
Animals pollinate crops that supply one third of the food and beverages that we consume. This comes from more than 80 crop species that are dependent on or benefit from animal pollination, including almonds, apples, berries, tomatoes, zucchini, and chocolate. These insect-pollinated crops provide nutrients essential to human health. In addition to improving the yield of many crop species, recent research demonstrates that pollinators such as bees also improve the nutritional value and commercial quality of some crops.
In North America, bees are responsible for roughly $25 billion in agricultural production each year. The honey bee, introduced to America in the early 1600s by European colonists, is of paramount importance as a pollinator for large-scale crops. However, there are also many species of native bees pollinating farm crops, including bumble bees, mason bees, mining bees, leafcutter bees, and sweat bees. In fact, native bees can be more efficient pollinators of certain crops and may be active in weather that honey bees avoid. This is particularly important for crops such as cherries and pears that bloom early in the year.
What will be the impact of this partnership?
The focus of the work will be to create pollinator habitat within the agricultural landscape. High quality habitat rich in wildflowers and protected from pesticides, with appropriate places for bees to nest will help all pollinators thrive, will support the pollination service on which farmers rely for full harvests, and will provide shelter for other wildlife, including declining species such as the monarch butterfly. The habitat could be hedgerows or windbreaks beside fields, meadows in untilled corners or where cropland has been taken out of production, rangelands managed for floral diversity, or wildflower and shrub lands planted along creeks where they bring a second benefit in improving water quality.
What does each partner bring to the partnership?
The three partners each bring unique yet complementary strengths.
General Mills is a global food company and aims to cultivate sustainable food production. The company is the single largest pollinator supporter within the food industry and this partnership with USDA and Xerces further strengthens General Mills commitment to healthy pollinator habitats by integrating nature and agriculture.
General Mills’ products contain honey, fruits, vegetables and other ingredients that require pollination, so healthy and abundant bee populations are a priority.
Since 2011, General Mills has invested more than $4 million with Xerces to support pollinator and biodiversity efforts across much of the company’s own supply chain including large-scale habitat projects underway with farms supplying ingredients to brands including Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, and Cheerios.
To learn more about General Mills’ work with pollinators, visit www.generalmills.com/en/Responsibility.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works one-on-one with agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices that conserve natural resources while benefiting working lands. About three dozen of these practices provide assistance through the Farm Bill to help producers create and enhance pollinator habitat. This voluntary conservation work also strengthens agricultural operations, supports other beneficial insects and wildlife and helps to sustain natural resources. This partnership will put additional boots on the ground to work with producers to plan and carry out the best conservation.
The Xerces Society has the world’s largest pollinator conservation team in the world and is engaged in the creation of pollinator habitat in working agricultural landscapes across North America. With 15 pollinator conservation specialists working closely with state and federal agencies—including 4 joint positions with the NRCS—as well as one-on-one with growers, the Society’s work has resulted in the creation or enhancement of over 400,000 acres of pollinator habitat and the training of more than 70,000 farmers and other agricultural professionals. Through this partnership, the Xerces Society will be expanding the number of joint NRCS partner biologists, expanding conservation support in the Midwest, Northeast and California. To learn more about the Society’s work, please visit www.xerces.org.
What will the Xerces Society/NRCS partner biologists do?
The NRCS supports farmers and ranchers through field offices in most counties in the U.S. NRCS staff based in these offices work directly with producers, providing conservation technical or financial support to help them to implement projects on the ground that protect soil, water and air quality, enhance plant and wildlife communities, and save energy. Partner biologists hired under this new partnership will be based in NRCS field or state offices where they will help NRCS staff provide pollinator conservation support. Our new partner biologists will provide detailed guidance on pollinator habitat restoration or management, evaluate habitat, and provide technical support to farmers and conservation staff in the regions they serve.
Six new partner biologists will be hired and they will be based in California, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Maine.
Why are farmers important for the success of this initiative?
About half of the U.S. land base is in agriculture, and if we truly want to ensure a long-term future for pollinators, then farmers must be part of the solution. As stewards of our land, and some of the country’s biggest land owners and managers, farmers are uniquely positioned to help pollinators. The decisions they make as they grow their crops, plan rotations, or opt to put land into conservation all have an impact on pollinators.
How can farmers benefit from this initiative?
Farmers wanting to act to help pollinators will be able to get advice on how and where to create habitat, guidance on pest management that minimizes impacts on pollinators, and information about U.S. Farm Bill conservation programs. If farmers want to apply for financial assistance, they may also qualify for cost-share or incentive funding to implement projects that benefit pollinators. If farmers create habitat, they will also benefit from enhanced crop pollination, as well as stronger populations of pest-controlling insect predators.
Where can farmers get information about pollinator conservation?
The Xerces Society can provide technical information about planning and creating habitat (plant lists, conservation guidelines, and so on) as well as pesticide mitigation advice. This will be available from staff pollinator conservation specialists and the Society’s website, www.xerces.org.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service can provide information on cost-share programs and assistance with farm planning through its network of county and state advisors. For contact information in your local area, visit the NRCS website, http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/contact/local/