Pollinators

Access FSA – NRCS letter clarifying policy on maintaining beehives on CRP (PDF) 

Pollinators are an essential link in agriculture. Animal pollinators, especially bees, are critical for producing more than one-third of our food products. In fact, bee-pollinated commodities account for $20 billion in annual U.S. agricultural production and $217 billion worldwide. In addition to bees, other pollinators, including butterflies and moths, beetles, flies, wasps, birds, and bats are necessary for pollinating more than 80% of plants in nature. 

Conservation Reserve Program Benefits Pollinators 

Since 1986, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has provided millions of acres of vital habitat for honey bees and other pollinators. With abundant acres of legume-rich forage or diverse wildflower plantings, CRP lands offer hives a safe haven from the pressures of modern agriculture—supplying large-scale sources of pollen and nectar that keep bee colonies healthy, and generating millions of dollars worth of honey every year. These same CRP lands offer tremendous benefits to native bumble bees and other pollinators that require diverse wildflowers, shrubs, and safe nesting sites. Analysis by USGS and ARS is demonstrating that CRP in North Dakota is providing habitat that enhances productivity and honey bee health. 

The Farm Service Agency is committed to supporting honey bees and wild pollinators through the CRP program. Ongoing efforts aim to increase the percentage of fast blooming forage legumes and other inexpensive wildflowers that have traditionally been a part of CRP plant mixes. New practices, such as the CP-42 Pollinator Enhancement (PDF), offer landowners a way to create longer-lasting meadows of high quality native wildflowers that support pollinators and other wildlife throughout the growing season. Combined, these efforts are increasing pollinator habitat across the U.S. 

Honey Bees and Conservation Reserve Program 

Landowners and beekeepers should know that honey bee hives are allowed on CRP lands, as long the placement of hives is consistent with the soil, water, and wildlife goals of CRP (see Handbook 2-CRP, subparagraph 634 B). With annual losses of beehives frequently greater than 30% each year since 2006, beekeepers need safe, high-quality forage more than ever. If you are a beekeeper looking for safe ground to place your hives, or a landowner who wants to help the beekeeping industry, consider contracting with beekeepers to permit placing hives on your property. 

Pollinator Habitat Initiative and the Conservation Reserve Program 

The Pollinator Habitat Initiative (CP-42) has been designed to provide habitat for honey bees and native pollinator species. Participants of newly enrolled pollinator habitat practices are eligible to receive  

  • Annual rental payments
  • Cost share payment covering up to 50 percent of the cost of establishing the pollinator practice
  • A $150 CRP Sign-up Incentive Payment (SIP) for each Continuous CRP acre enrolled in CP-42. The SIP is a one-time payment available to participants in Continuous enrollment CRP. SIP payments are not available for land enrolled through general CRP signups.
  • Cost share payment covering 50 percent of the cost of mid-contract management. 

CP-42 practices shall be comprised of native plant species although exceptions may be made if diverse native seed mixes are unavailable. The species mix should include a variety of plants that flower at different times throughout the growing seasons, providing pollen sources that are critical for honey bee and native bee health. Planting in blocks is preferred over strip plantings, and each block or strip should be a minimum of 0.5 acres. 

Legumes and inexpensive CP-2/CP-4 bee forage plant mixes 

Even if not enrolling in CP-42, CRP lands can provide tremendous benefits to honey bees and beekeepers. Consider choosing ‘bee forage’ mixes available under CP-2 (Native Grasses) or CP-4 (Permanent Wildlife Habitat) that are composed of more than 50% forage legumes or other inexpensive wildflower species. Over time, these wildflowers may drop out, but the benefits for beekeepers will be immediate. These same plant mixes also can be used in the enrolled land surrounding CP-42 plantings, to dramatically increase your overall benefit to bees and pollinators. 


Enrolling in the Conservation Reserve Program

To learn how to enroll in CRP and create habitat for our declining pollinators: 

General Signup CRPFor further information, click here 

Continuous Signup CRP– contact your county or state office by clicking here


ARS Pollinator Research Centers 

USDA /NRCS - Natural Resource Conservation Service Home

Xerces Society Pollinator Conservation Program 

Xerces and NRCS brochure on Farming for Pollinators: (English version) (Spanish version

Pollinator habitat assessment 

Habitat creation/installation guides 

Pollinator conservation in agricultural landscapes 


National Academy of Science - Status of Pollinators in North America

Status of Pollinators 

Pollinating insects – biology, management, and systematics research - 


Links (training):

Evaluating and establishing pollinator habitat 

Common bees and best bee plants of the east 

Conserving Pollinators While Addressing Other Resource Concerns  

Other Links – Pollinator Web page references of Interest –  

Economic Value of Insect Pollination Worldwide Estimated At U.S. $217 Billion 

Insect pollinators and sustainable agriculture – Article author query 

Peter G. Kevan, E. Ann Clark and Vernon G. Thomas – Click here for further information 

Pollination by Honey Bees – 

Honey Bees are Important Pollinators - Information Sheet -