Collaborating with farmers to protect and restore high-quality habitat for pollinators is a core part of the work of the Xerces Society. We have long realized that, because farming encompasses about half of the U.S. land base, we must work with farmers if we want to provide for a long-term future for pollinators.
As part of our agricultural pollinator conservation efforts we are launching a new farm and food certification program, Bee Better Certified™—the first third-party certification program in the world focused specifically on pollinator conservation.
The goal of Bee Better Certified is to give bees a healthy place to live. We know that pollinators benefit when farmers plant and manage a diversity of flowers in their farm landscapes and limit the use of pesticides. We also know that food companies have a desire to have on-package claims that are standardized. The result is Bee Better Certified, which provides a clear way forward for farmers and food companies to be certified by a program that is science-based, third-party certified, and meaningful for pollinators.
Thanks to Bee Better Certified, farmers can now be recognized for their conservation efforts and businesses have the opportunity to market products using a packaging seal that demonstrates they work with conservation-minded growers—and consumers can shop with confidence, knowing that what they are purchasing benefits pollinators and the farmers working to protect them.
At the heart of Bee Better Certified is a set of standards that establish a high bar for habitat restoration and pesticide risk reduction, and ensure that the program meets its goal of helping bees. These production standards were developed from a thorough review of scientific literature and rigorous vetting by a panel of experts. We also drew on the experience of a decade of farm-tested habitat establishment and maintenance techniques. By following the habitat standards, we know that growers will be able to create high-value habitat that not only supports beneficial insects, but also bolsters crop pollination.
The Bee Better Certified Production Standards are a set of requirements that must be met by all growers wanting to be certified. Farmers are required to dedicate at least 5% of their land to flower-rich habitat that provides pollen, nectar, and nesting sites. In addition, exposure to pesticides is mitigated through a combination of preventative pest management techniques and the elimination of high-risk pesticides.
Bee Better Certified’s focus on habitat is unique among farm certification programs, yet compatible with any farming operation. While the program may appear most aligned with sustainable farming practices—it can assist organic growers in meeting the National Organic Program’s biodiversity guidance—Bee Better Certified can be adopted by growers of all types: large or small, organic or conventional, and everything in between. Implementing the Production Standards can enhance any operation, but in particular they help move conventional growers towards more sustainable practices.
Bee Better Certified has been a long time in development and is something we have entered into with the support of many fantastic farmers and progressive food industry advisors. To help guide us, we recruited an outstanding advisory board comprised of experts in the fields of agriculture, certification, pesticide risk mitigation, pollinator research, retail, and sustainable sourcing. Bee Better Certified received startup funding through the Conservation Innovation Grant program run by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. We are partnering with Oregon Tilth, one of the largest organic certifiers in the U.S., as the first Bee Better Certified accredited certification body.
With continued decline of pollinator populations worldwide, we believe that the Bee Better Certified program is a timely and excellent way to promote the adoption of agricultural practices proven to benefit pollinators. Together, we can create better places for bees.
Learn more about Bee Better Certified and join the movement to provide pollinators with a healthy, sustainable environment at www.beebettercertified.org