Iowa Shifts Farmland to Pollinator Habitats

Photo Credit: Des Moines Register

Photo Credit: Des Moines Register

In the last four years, Iowa farmers have dedicated more than 127,000 acres to habitats for pollinators like butterflies and bees. Over the course of this transition, these habitats have had a positive impact on the economy, crops and the population of dwindling pollinator species:

Iowa has about 40 percent of the nation’s total acres of pollinator habitat, the agency said. The federal contracts require the land to be set aside for habitat for 10 or 15 years, with penalties for ending them sooner.

Part of Iowa’s adoption comes from a big state and national habitat push.

Monarch and bee populations have dropped dramatically nationwide, in part because of the loss of native prairies and meadows they need for food and reproduction. Parasites and pesticides also contribute to losses, scientists say.

Not only do the habitats benefit pollinators, but allowing pollinators onto farmland benefits crops, as well, with even more growth on the horizon:

The economic impact is significant. Honeybees pollinate more than $15 billion in fruits, nuts and vegetables each year.

Altogether, pollinators benefit crops valued at $24 billion, the federal government said.

To help restore pollinators, the Obama administration wants to add or enhance 7 million acres of pollinator habitat by 2020.

“Farmers understand they can add habitat that’s beneficial to pollinators and good for the environment,” said John Whitaker, executive director of the Iowa Farm Service Agency.

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