Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday June 20 Cattle on Feed + Ag News


Nebraska feedlots, with capacities of 1,000 or more head, contained 2.41 million cattle on feed on June 1, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.  This inventory was up 3 percent from last year.  Placements during May totaled 425,000 head, down 10 percent from 2013.   Fed cattle marketings for the month of May totaled 485,000 head, down 5 percent from last year.   Other disappearance during May totaled 20,000 head, unchanged from a year ago.

Iowa Cattle on Feed up 3%

Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in Iowa for all feedlots totaled 1,200,000 on June 1, 2014 according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Iowa Field Office.  The inventory is down 4 percent from May 1, 2014 but up 3 percent from June 1, 2013.  Feedlots with a capacity greater than 1,000 head had 640,000 head on feed, down 3 percent  from  last month but up 5 percent  from  last year.   Feedlots with a capacity  less  than 1,000 head had 560,000 head on feed, down 5 percent from last month but unchanged from last year.

Placements during May  totaled 96,000 head, a decrease of 27 percent from  last month and 8 percent from  last year.  Feedlots with  a  capacity  greater  than  1,000  head  placed  54,000  head,  down  22  percent  from  last month  and  down 17 percent from last year.  Feedlots with a capacity less than 1,000 head placed 42,000 head. This is down 32 percent from last month but up 8 percent from last year.

Marketings for May were 138,000 head, down 2 percent from last month and down 7 percent from last year. Feedlots with a capacity greater  than 1,000 head marketed 70,000 head, down 8 percent from  last month and down 3 percent from last year.   Feedlots with a capacity less than 1,000 head marketed 68,000 head, up 5 percent from last month but down 12 percent from last year. Other disappearance totaled 8,000 head.


Kansas feedlots, with capacities of 1,000 or more head, contained 2.02 million cattle on feed on June 1, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. This inventory was down 2 percent from last year.  This is the lowest June inventory since 1999.  Placements during May totaled 435,000 head, up 1 percent from 2013.    Fed cattle marketings for the month of May totaled 400,000 head, down 2 percent from last year.  Other disappearance during May totaled 25,000 head, up 5,000 head from last year. 

United States Cattle on Feed Down 2 Percent
Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 10.6 million head on June 1, 2014. The inventory was 2 percent below June 1, 2013.

Placements in feedlots during May totaled 1.91 million, 7 percent below 2013. Net placements were 1.81 million head. During May, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 435,000, 600-699 pounds were 290,000, 700-799 pounds were 477,000, and 800 pounds and greater were 710,000.

Marketings of fed cattle during May totaled 1.87 million, 4 percent below 2013. May marketings are the lowest for the month since the series began in 1996.  Other disappearance totaled 101,000 during May, 1 percent above 2013.

Number of Cattle on Feed on 1,000+ Capacity Feedlots by Month - States and US: 2013 and 2014

                      :                 :                 :                      June 1, 2014               
                      :                 :                 :--------------------------------------------
       State       :  June 1 '13 : May 1, '14 :              :  Percent of   :  Percent of 
                      :                 :                 : Number  :previous year :previous month
                      :     --------------- 1,000 head --------------          ----- percent ----     
Arizona ..........:        272               277              275          101             99     
California .......:        510               450              435           85             97     
Colorado ........:        960               960              930           97             97     
Idaho .............:        205               215              205          100             95     
Iowa ..............:        610               660              640          105             97     
Kansas ..........:      2,070             2,010          2,020           98            100     
Minnesota ......:        131               138              123           94             89     
Nebraska .......:      2,340             2,490          2,410          103             97     
Oklahoma ......:        310               255              265           85            104     
South Dakota .:        215               235              225          105             96     
Texas ............:      2,630             2,430          2,550           97            105     
Washington ....:        214               208              201           94             97     
Other States ...:        300               320              315          105             98     
United States ..:     10,767            10,648       10,594           98             99     

No. Cattle Placed on Feed on 1,000+ Capacity Feedlots by Month - States and US: 2013 and 2014

                      :              :              :                        During May 2014              
                      :  During   : During    :--------------------------------------------
       State       :May 2013:April 2014:                  :  Percent of  :  Percent of 
                      :              :              : Number      :previous year :previous month
                      :    ------------ 1,000 head -----------           ----- percent ----     
Arizona ..........:       25             26             24            96             92     
California .......:       72             57             50            69             88     
Colorado ........:      170            130          140            82            108     
Idaho .............:       41             32             23            56             72     
Iowa ..............:       65             69             54            83             78     
Kansas ..........:      430            325          435           101            134     
Minnesota ......:       17             16              8            47             50     
Nebraska .......:      470            420          425            90            101     
Oklahoma ......:       78             43             67            86            156     
South Dakota .:       39             28             34            87            121     
Texas ............:      570            420          580           102            138     
Washington ....:       40             35             40           100            114     
Other States ...:       38             35             32            84             91     
United States ..:    2,055        1,636        1,912            93            117     

No. of Cattle Marketed on 1,000+ Capacity Feedlots by Month - States and US: 2013 and 2014

                      :              :              :                        During May 2014              
                      :  During   : During    :--------------------------------------------
       State       :May 2013:April 2014:                  :  Percent of  :  Percent of 
                      :              :              : Number      :previous year :previous month
                      :    ------------ 1,000 head -----------           ----- percent ----     
Arizona ..........:       27             25             25            93            100     
California .......:       54              67             60           111             90     
Colorado ........:      150            130           145            97            112     
Idaho .............:       45             26             32            71            123     
Iowa ..............:       72             76             70            97             92     
Kansas ..........:      410            385          400            98            104     
Minnesota ......:       15             13             22           147            169     
Nebraska .......:      510            415          485            95            117     
Oklahoma ......:       61             62             55            90             89     
South Dakota .:       45             30             41            91            137     
Texas ............:      465            480          450            97             94     
Washington ...:       45             36             45           100            125     
Other States ..:       49             33             35            71            106     
United States .:    1,948         1,778        1,865          96            105     

June is Dairy Month

Governor Dave Heineman

June is Dairy Month in Nebraska which gives us the opportunity to honor the producers of Nebraska’s dairy industry. Their daily work and dedication contributes to our citizen’s health and prosperity by providing milk, yogurt or cheese.

Dairy farmers are committed to producing real, fresh and natural dairy foods that help feed our nation while using fewer resources. Nebraska’s dairy families take pride in the role they play in preserving our natural resources, caring for the land, protecting the air and water, and providing quality care for their animals.

The dairy industry actively supports and strengthens Nebraska’s economy by contributing more than $250 million annually. They have a century-long heritage in their dedication to child nutrition, health and wellness, and the dairy industry is intent on making sure future generations are well nourished.

For some, however, access to dairy foods might not be that simple. Nebraska dairy farmers, dairy processors, and communities are coming together to make a difference.

Many Americans rely on food banks for nutrition assistance, including more than 12 million families and more than 16 million children who are missing out on the important nutrients found in milk. Nebraskans are generous with donations of canned and dry goods to community food banks.

Fresh milk is much harder to donate because it’s perishable. Food bank directors explain that milk is one of the products their clients request most often, but they cannot always meet the demand. The average person relying on a food bank only receives about one gallon of fresh milk a year. Milk is one of the top five most in-demand items at food banks.

That's why the National Dairy Council and Nebraska’s Midwest Dairy Council are partnering with Feeding America and our local Nebraska Feeding America Food Banks to launch The Great American Milk Drive. This national campaign is being used to help bring gallons of nutrient-rich milk to millions of families all across America.

With a small donation, our citizens can help bring milk to families in need in our local communities through the Food Bank for the Heartland or the Lincoln Food Bank. Donations will provide a food bank client with a voucher that they can redeem at their local grocery retailer for a gallon of white milk.

We know the power that Nebraska has when we come together to help each other.  More information on this program can be found at


Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist

Wet soils in alfalfa fields right after cutting will certainly do one thing.  It will help weedy grasses like foxtail and crabgrass grow.

So, how do you reduce the amount of foxtail and other weedy grasses in your hay?  Well, the best way to start is to keep your alfalfa thick and thrifty so it will compete aggressively with invading foxtail.  Thick initial stands and good soil fertility are needed.  In addition, harvest alfalfa only after it begins to bloom or when new shoots appear at the base of the plants.  Then alfalfa should regrow rapidly so foxtail doesn't get much time to become a problem.

Unfortunately, this method often is easier said than done.  It also may sacrifice some forage quality since harvest occurs after bloom begins.  So this method may not solve all your problems.

Herbicides are another option.  Roundup works great, but only for Roundup Ready varieties.  In conventional alfalfa, two herbicides that control annual grasses are Select Max and Poast Plus.  These herbicides work well on seedling grasses that are less than 4 inches tall, and alfalfa tolerates both herbicides very well.  Another herbicide option, but a much more risky option, is Gramoxone Extra.  Gramoxone burns back top growth of all green plant material.  This will kill most annuals like foxtail, but it also can injure alfalfa regrowth that has already emerged.  Therefore, only use Gramoxone immediately after harvest and before any new regrowth shoots appear.  None of these herbicides have any soil residual activity, so good plant coverage is necessary and you may need to repeat the spraying if new weeds emerge.

If weedy grasses are a problem in your hay, thick and vigorous alfalfa stands and some well-chosen herbicides can help you get it under control.

End to drought in sight for western U.S., expert says

Historic dry conditions for the western United States will continue throughout this summer, but climate conditions could change this fall and bring relief, according to a University of Missouri climate expert. Tony Lupo, chair of atmospheric sciences at the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, says that the hot and dry weather has two main causes: eastern Pacific ridging and blocking events, and lower sea temperatures in the central Pacific.

Eastern Pacific ridging is an elongated area of high atmospheric pressure. Ridges enhance summer heat and, depending on their strength and how fast they move, can bring record summer heat and stifling air pollution to a region for several days or weeks.

“The long-lasting ridging over the eastern Pacific showed signs of weakening earlier this month,” Lupo said. “When this pattern diminishes, as I predict it will sometime by September, a more normal jet stream pattern will return and direct much-needed rainfall back to parched California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas.”

Atmospheric blocking occurs when a powerful high-pressure system gets locked in one place. These motionless areas tend to cover a large area and low pressure areas tend to grind to a halt behind them. Rain-carrying storms aren’t able to move in their normal west-to-east pattern because of this blocking. Blocking events also can trigger dangerous conditions such as extreme weather. If hot and dry weather doesn’t move, short- to long-term drought conditions can result.

“Only about 20 to 40 blocking events occur each year, making them among the rarest of weather events,” Lupo said. “However, the greatest frequency occurs over the Atlantic and Pacific. Additional improvement will come to the west because of a change in the equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures that have a strong influence on weather patterns over North America.”

For nearly four years, the Pacific Ocean has experienced La Nina or neutral conditions in the Pacific. During these periods the sea surface temperatures across the central Pacific Ocean can be lower than normal. These conditions typically direct the jet stream from the Pacific on a northeast path over Canada. Lupo says storms follow the jet stream and leave the western United States dry.

“Recently, La Nina has weakened into a neutral state and is showing signs of transitioning into an El Nino state,” Lupo said. “This will allow the jet stream to flow over the middle of the U.S., bringing much needed showers with it.”

Lupo says that rainfall would be welcomed in the west, as California and Nevada are in their third year of what the U.S. Drought Monitor calls an “extreme drought,” the second highest of six rankings, and about 10 percent of those areas are experiencing an “exceptional drought,” the highest possible level.  As of mid-May, approximately 38 percent of the contiguous U.S. suffered from drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

House Committee Approves Record Funding for Waterways

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved, by unanimous voice vote, the FY2015 Energy and Water appropriations bill that funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program, with record-strong numbers reflecting the impact of policy changes made by the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA).

The bill funds the Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program at $5.4 billion, which is $25 million above FY14 and $959 million above the President’s budget request.

In the Construction account, the Committee provided $112 million in additional funding for Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) projects, plus $85.5 million in undesignated navigation project money reflecting the funding increases from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. The bill’s overall funding level for the Construction account was $1.7 billion, $48.5 million above FY14, and $579.5 million above the Administration’s requested level.

In the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) account, of the $303.4 million in additional funding provided, $45 million is for inland waterways, $150.5 million is for deep-draft harbors and channels, $42.5 million is for small/remote/subsistence projects, and $25.4 million is undesignated. This is the highest O&M funding level to date.  The bill’s overall funding level for the O&M account is $2.9 billion, $44 million above FY14 and $305 million above the Administration’s request.

On the Senate side, however, the Appropriations Committee postponed their scheduled markup of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, amid controversy over potential amendments related to climate change and Clean Water Act issues. No new mark-up date or plan has been announced as of yet. The House and Senate must pass the FY15 appropriations bills or an extension of FY14 spending by the end of the fiscal year (Oct. 1) to avoid a shutdown.

Senate Starts Debate on Ag Appropriations Bill

The Senate began its debate on the FY15 Agriculture Appropriations Bill on Wednesday. The Senate bill, which passed out of the appropriations committee in May with no objections, is now being considered as part of a “minibus” of appropriations bills that also includes Commerce, Justice, Science and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bills. It is still unclear how debate for the agriculture spending bill will progress since no agreement on amendments has been made. Meanwhile, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) filed an amendment yesterday that would reprogram $2 million in the Natural Resources and Conservation Serve (NRCS) budget to address the backlog of wetlands determinations in all states. In a statement regarding his amendment Thune said, “With a backlog of more than 3,000 undetermined wetlands in South Dakota these farmers cannot apply any water management practices on their land because they do not know where NRCS will determine wetlands are located. Some farmers have been waiting two or more years for these determinations.” This provision is even more important now with the impending implementation of applying conservation compliance requirements to crop insurance premium assistance. Late Thursday afternoon the appropriations “minibus” was pulled from the Senate floor schedule when Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) unveiled his plan for amendments. Senator Reid wanted to require a 60-vote threshold for amendments to pass; a strategy that Republicans rejected causing the Senate to pull the bill and the path forward to passage left unclear.

Biobased Products Enjoy the Spotlight in Washington

This week in Washington, DC the U.S. biobased products sector was the subject of attention on several fronts.  On Tuesday, June 17 the Senate Ag Committee held a hearing titled, “Grow it Here, Make it Here: Creating Jobs through Biobased Manufacturing.”  Among those testifying at the hearing are The Coca-Cola Company, which uses biobased plastic bottles, called “PlantBottle,”that are made with sugar feedstocks; Cargill, which uses soybean oil to produce an electric transformer fluid called “EnviroTemp” that recently was the recipient of the EPA’s Green Chemistry Award and supplies biobased ingredients for a broad range of companies and products; and Lear Corporation, which uses soybean oil for their SoyFoam products used in automotive interiors.

Following the hearing, the Senate Agriculture Committee hosted a “Spotlight on Innovation” that showcased 35 companies and entities from more than 20 different states, who are involved in developing and producing biobased products. The Indiana Soybean Alliance was among those participating in the showcase and displaying soy-based concrete sealant and other soy based products. Some other notable participants in the showcase include, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Ford Motor Company, DuPont, the Sherwin Williams Company, SynLawn of New York, Biobased Technologies of Arkansas and Soy Clean of Iowa.

Building around the Senate hearing and showcase, the United Soybean Board (USB) held their annual biobased workshop June 17-18 in Washington, DC.  The workshop, officially called the Biobased Stakeholder’s Dialogue, brought together many companies and organizations to examine and discuss issues important to the growth and development of the biobased sector.  The USB workshop was held at the George Washington University (GWU), and included opening remarks from Kathleen Merrigan, the former USDA Deputy Secretary and current Director of Sustainability for GWU as well as a keynote address from current USDA Deputy Secretary and former ASA staffer Krysta Harden.

EPA Misses Own RFS Deadline

The Environmental Protection Agency missed its own deadline Friday to finalize 2014 renewable fuel blending requirements under the Renewable Fuels Standard.

The American Petroleum Institute, which has pushed for reduced blending requirements, has criticized the delay in setting the 2014 Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO), while biofuel trade groups continue to push for a higher blending mandate from what the EPA proposed in November 2013.

EPA, the administrator of the RFS, had previously announced that the 2014 RVO for refiners, blenders and importers would be finalized by June 20. In November, EPA proposed reducing volume mandates for this year. The RVO, by statute, is required to be finalized by the end of November of the preceding year.

Beef Checkoff Involvement in USFRA

On June 10, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, funded in part by your beef checkoff (Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board), hosted the latest installment of the Food Dialogues, titled “Integrity in Food Marketing.” The panel featured a variety of experts, including Dawn Caldwell, cattle rancher from Nebraska. The panel explored how food professionals – from farmers to food manufacturers, marketers to foodservice and retail executives – can share information on complex food-production issues while not confusing, misrepresenting or alarming consumers. Dawn was able to bring incredibly valuable perspective to the discussion, as she spoke firsthand about how she raises beef and her commitment to caring for animals, raising beef that is sustainable and how beef producers responsibly use technologies such as antibiotics and hormones. The full video, as well as shorter segments of the discussion, are available on

The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance recently announced that they will begin looking for the new “Faces of Farming & Ranching.” To help put a real face on agriculture, in early September, USFRA will select standout farmers and ranchers who are proud of what they do, eager to share their stories of continuous improvement and who are actively involved in sharing those stories in public and on social media. Farmers and ranchers who grow and raise an assortment of foods through various methods, on differing scale and across all regions of the country are encouraged to apply.  To apply, you can visit between Thursday, July 10 and Sunday, August 10, 2014 to complete an application entry form, and to submit a video no longer than three minutes that shows your operation and your role on the farm/ranch.

To learn more about your beef checkoff investment, visit

DDGS Exports to China: Update

(from USGC)

The market is rapidly adjusting to the new ground rules for U.S. distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) exports to China. While the government in China has yet to issue a formal announcement, traders have been told unofficially that no new DDGS import permits will be issued for the time being, and that incoming cargoes of DDGS entering under existing permits will be subject to more stringent inspection for biotech events that are not approved in China.

Existing import permits, however, are still valid, and contracts are still being written. Feed prices in China remain above world market levels, and buyers in China are still eager to obtain DDGS if possible. A key issue is financial loss if a cargo does not pass inspection at the port of entry. Trade sources indicate that buyers in China are willing to accept this risk, and expect that shipments will pass inspection.

A second issue is the re-export of cargoes that fail inspection at the port of entry in China. U.S. Grains Council staff are working with traders to obtain documentation and identify new destinations. The current situation has created many buying opportunities, and traders have expressed confidence in their ability to adjust rapidly.

Dairy Situation and Outlook - June 19, 2014

Bob Cropp, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension

Despite higher milk prices and lower feed cost resulting in favorable returns over feed cost the growth in milk production has been relatively low. Last quarter of 2013 milk production was just 0.3% higher than the year before. First quarter of this year production was up just 1%. Production picked up some in April and May being up 1.2% and 1.4% respectively. Milk production is increasing seasonally only slightly with May production 0.1% higher than April on a daily basis.

The increase in milk production is the result of more milk cows and more milk per cow. Cow numbers are increasing as dairy producers reduce culling as well as adding cows. Cow slaughter thus far this year is 11% lower than a year ago. Cow numbers for May were 10,000 head higher than April and have increased by 50,000 head since starting to increase last December. Of the 23 reporting states just five states had lower May milk production than a year ago—Minnesota 0.1%, New York 0.3%, Ohio 2.5%, Pennsylvania 1.4% and Vermont 0.4%. States leading in increases in milk production were Texas up 10.1%, Colorado up 9.5%, Kansas up 7.0% and South Dakota up 5.9%. California’s production was up 1.0%, Idaho up 0.5%, New Mexico up 1.4% and Arizona up 3.9%. Milk production was up 1.2% in Iowa but flat for Wisconsin.

April butter production was 4.9% lower than a year ago. With good domestic sales and April exports 105% higher than a year ago, stocks are rather tight. The latest dairy stock report is for April 30th. Butter stocks were 43.8% lower than a year ago. As a result, butter prices have been well above $2 per pound all of May and thus far in June. As of June 19th CME butter was $2.235 per pound. April nonfat dry milk production was 1.2% lower than a year ago and April exports 4% lower. April 30th nonfat dry milk stocks were 15.2% higher than a year ago, the most stocks since January of 2010. Nonfat dry milk was above $2.00 per pound all year until mid-May and is now $1.825. The Class IV price was $22.65 in May. Higher butter prices will more than offset lower nonfat dry milk prices increasing the June Class IV price to near $22.85.

April total cheese production was 2.2% higher than a year ago with cheddar production up just 1.0%. As with butter domestic sales have been good and April exports 32% higher than a year ago. April 30th total cheese stocks were 7.6% lower than a year ago. CME cheese prices have remained strong with 40-pound cheddar blocks above $2 per pound all of May and thus far in June. Barrel cheese average $2 per pound in May and about $1.96 thus far in June. As of June 19th, cheddar blocks were at $2.00 per pound and cheddar barrels had increased to $2.005 per pound. April production of dry whey was 12.8% lower than a year ago and exports 14% higher. As a result April 30th stocks of dry whey were relatively tight being 18.8% lower than a year ago. The result is higher dry whey prices now trading at $0.66 per pound and giving strength to the Class III price. The Class III price had peaked in April at $24.31 declined to $22.57 in May and will be a little lower in June near $21.35.

While dairy exports have been at record levels they are likely to soften some the last half of this year. World milk production has improved and world prices of dairy products have declined considerably since the beginning of the year reducing the price competitiveness of U.S. dairy products on the world market. But, exports could still set a record for the year.

The growth in milk production is expected to increase for the last half of the year as milk cow numbers increase and milk per cow continues to improve. USDA’s latest dairy forecast has milk production for the year increasing 2.4% due to the number of milk cows averaging 0.4% higher for the year and milk per cow increasing 2.1%. But, the increase in the number of milk cows and increases in milk per cow will need to strengthen for the remainder of the year in order to reach a 2.4% increase in total milk production for the year.

No sharp decline in milk prices like what has occurred at times in the past is anticipated. Butter and cheese sales are anticipated to remain favorable. Dairy stocks will build this summer and early fall, but not to levels that will put a lot of downward pressure on prices. Dairy exports could soften some for the last half of the year. The growth in milk production will pick up. All of these factors indicate a slow decline in milk prices. The Class III price may not fall below $20 until October or November and end the year around $18.75. Existing Class III futures are even higher than this. It now looks like the Class III price could average over $21 for the year compared to $17.99 last year. The Class IV price is also expected to decline as we move through the year but could stay above $20 until November or December and could also average over $21 for the year compared to $19.05 last year. Looking ahead to first quarter of 2015 the both the Class III price and Class IV price may average in the mid to high $17s to low $18’s. But, so much can happen between now and then to change this forecast including how this year’s crops turn out and resulting feed costs this fall and winter as well as the level of dairy exports.

USDA Provides $8 Million to Help Boost Declining Honey Bee Population

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), today announced $8 million in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) incentives for Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin farmers and ranchers who establish new habitats for declining honey bee populations. More than half of the commercially managed honey bees are in these five states during the summer. Today's announcement comes in addition to $3 million USDA designated to the Midwest states to support bee populations earlier this year through the Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

"American agricultural production relies on having a healthy honey bee population," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "In recent years, factors such as diseases, parasites, pesticides or habitat loss have contributed to a significant decline in the honey bee population. This $8 million is part of the Administration's ongoing strategy to reverse these trends and establish more plant habitat on Conservation Reserve Program lands to restore the bee population."

The new CRP pollinator initiative is designed to further enhance current CRP land, allowing it to provide better access to nutritious pollinator forage. The program allows for managing or replacing existing vegetation, known as 'covers', with lower cost, high nutrition seed mixes that can support distinct blooming cycles of plants that benefit pollinators. Honey bees, the pollinator workhorse of U.S. fruit and vegetable agriculture, will have more blooms from which to collect nectar and pollen to sustain and promote colony growth and honey production throughout the growing season. By assisting honey bees, the pollinator initiative helps USDA continue to secure the food supply. More than $15 billion worth of agricultural production, including over 130 fruits and vegetables, depend on the health and well-being of honey bees.

Now is a critical time for efforts to support honey bee populations. The honey bee population in the United States has been declining for decades. The number of managed U.S. honey bee colonies dropped from 6 million in 1947, to just 2.5 million today.

This week, President Obama issued a memorandum directing U.S. government agencies to take additional steps to protect and restore domestic populations of pollinators, including honey bees. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will co-chair a new Pollinator Health Task Force to focus federal efforts to conduct research and take action to help pollinators recover from population losses. This includes a public education campaign to teach people ways that they can help pollinators in their own homes or businesses.

USDA is already actively pursuing solutions to the multiple problems affecting honey bee health. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) maintains four laboratories across the country conducting research into all aspects of bee genetics, breeding, biology and physiology, with special focus on bee nutrition, control of pathogens and parasites, the effects of pesticide exposure and the interactions between each of these factors. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports bee research efforts through grants and research to Land Grant Universities. The Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conducts national honey bee pest and disease surveys and provides border inspections to prevent new invasive bee pests from entering the U.S. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) and NRCS work on improved forage and habitat for bees through programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and EQIP. Additionally, the Economic Research Service (ERS) is currently examining the direct economic costs of the pollinator problem and the associated indirect economic impacts, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts limited surveys of honey production, number of colonies, price, and value of production which provide some data essential for research by the other agencies.

The CRP pollinator initiative, administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), takes advantage of the new pollinator seed mixes developed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. FSA also recently announced the restart of continuous enrollments in CRP, including its Pollinator Habitat Initiative to enroll 100,000 acres of longer lasting meadows of high-quality native wildflowers that support honey bees, pollinators and other wildlife populations.

For more information about new the pollinator initiative in the five Midwestern states, the continuous enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program, and the pollinator habitat initiative, agricultural producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA office or go online at

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