On Wednesday, November 30, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and General Mills announced that they were together making a five-year, $4 million financial commitment to support the creation and protection of pollinator habitat on America’s farmlands. Thanks to this funding, the Xerces Society will add six pollinator conservation specialists, who will work jointly with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to provide individual consulting to farmers on habitat restoration and pollinator-friendly farm management practices, and serve as advisors to other conservation agency staff. The pollinator conservation specialists will be based in California, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Maine.
The focus of the work will be to create pollinator habitat — over 100,000 acres by 2021 — within the agricultural landscape. Providing habitat such as native wildflower field edges, hedgerows, and pollinator meadows on farms has been shown to help a variety of pollinators, including bumble bees, sweat bees, honey bees, and butterflies, and provides benefits to crops that need insect pollinators. Such habitat can also support beneficial insects that control crop pests, improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, and provide habitat for game and songbirds.
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 placed to help pollinators. This partnership great expands our ability to engage with farmers, influence the management of large areas of working farms, and stimulate debate about how to integrate pollinator conservation into everyday farming practices, bringing lasting change to the American landscape to help pollinators prosper.