Federal help to save honeybees - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Federal help to save honeybees

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MILWAUKEE (WKOW) -- Wisconsin farmers may be able to get some help to improve their pastures.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it will spend millions of dollars to help farmers in five midwestern states provide food for the struggling honeybee population.

Commercial honeybees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of produce each year.

Many beekeepers bring hives to the upper midwest in the summer for bees to gather nectar and pollen for food.

Then they truck them to California and other states to pollinate plants.

But there's been a decade-long decline of honeybees because of habitat loss and pesticide use.

Colony collapse disorder, in which honeybees suddenly disappear or die, has made the problem worse, boosting losses over the winter to as much as 30% per year.

The USDA hopes to stem those losses by providing more areas for bees to build up food stores and strength for winter.

Dairy farmers and ranchers in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas can qualify for about $3 million to reseed pastures with alfalfa, clover and other plants appealing to both bees and livestock.

Farmers also can get help building fences, installing water tanks and making other changes that better enable them to move their animals from pasture to pasture so the vegetation doesn't become worn down.

The goal is to provide higher quality food for insects and animals.

Corn, soybean and other farmers can qualify for money to plant cover crops, which typically go in after the regular harvest and help improve soil health, or to grow bee-friendly forage in borders and on the edges of fields.

The program is just the latest in a series of USDA efforts to reduce honeybee deaths.

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