Beekeeping and the Conservation Reserve Program
Our food supply depends on bees for pollination. Scientists and beekeepers alike have seen a drastic decline in bee populations over the past two decades. Causes include pesticide exposure, lack of suitable habitat for nesting and foraging, and parasites and pathogens.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has an initiative called CP42, or Pollinator Habitat, that can help establish more nesting and forage habitat for bees. It encourages the planting of wildflowers and legumes, with an emphasis on native species and plants that flower throughout the growing season. This could have tremendous impacts on bee health.
Iowa State University Extension entomologist Randall Cass says this can be planted as a large swath of prairie or in smaller patches adjacent to farmland. ISU research has shown more diversity and abundance of native bee species at prairie sites than at agricultural sites.
“Other research shows that hives taken from an area where it’s mostly agricultural production around them and moved to a site where there’s prairie present have a higher mass at the end of the season,” says Cass. “So they have more food stored, more nectar stored, more pollen stored, and that’s important going into the winter. We also see a greater abundance of different pollinators.”
The hives don’t have to be owned and tended by the landowner. Cass says the challenge is connecting those landowners with beekeepers.
“The easiest way is to go online and find their nearest beekeeper’s association or beekeeping organization,” he says. “Whenever landowners inquire about ways to get bees on their land, I usually try to connect them with their nearest local beekeeping association to see if there’s anyone that’s interested in putting bees at their site.”
According to the USDA Farm Service Agency, the CP42 practice will be offered through continuous sign-up. To be eligible for CP42:
- The land must be cropland and meet cropping history requirements as specified in the Code of Federal Regulations.
- Land currently enrolled in CRP may be re-offered for enrollment into CP42 if the land enrolled in CRP is in the last year of the CRP-1 contract.
- Whole fields may be enrolled. If not planted in whole fields, block plantings are preferred over strips. If planted in strips, each strip must be a minimum of 20 feet wide.
- The minimum size requirement is 0.5 acres.
- Contracts for CP42 practices must have a duration of 10 years.