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Assessing the impact of the Conservation Reserve Program on honey bee health

February 21, 2019

Insect pollinators are critically important for maintaining U.S. food production and ecosystem health. The upper Midwest is home to more than 40 percent of all U.S. honey bee colonies and is considered by many beekeepers to be America’s last beekeeping refuge. Beekeepers come to this region because their honey bees require high-quality grassland and bee-friendly agricultural crops to make honey and to improve bee health. Agricultural grassland, such as those enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), support flowers that provide bees with the pollen and nectar they need. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) formed a partnership to assess the impact of the CRP on honey bee health and determine how the cost-effectiveness of the CRP could be improved to promote pollinator habitat. This USGS assessment has generated important findings that could improve USDA’s program delivery and demonstrates the importance of the CRP to honey bees, beekeepers, agricultural producers, and the public.