A new report from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) examines challenges to Minnesota pollinator populations and ways to enhance their habitat. The 2013 legislature directed the MDA to propose ways to create and enhance habitat for insect pollinators (bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, and other insects), and to collaborate with other state agencies in preparing a report on pollinators. Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson submitted the report yesterday to state legislative agricultural and natural resources committees. The report outlines a variety of approaches to the creation of a “pollinator bank,” and calls for legislative support for a new University of Minnesota academic position to coordinate statewide pollinator protection activities.
The report notes that many interacting factors affect pollinator populations including pathogens and parasites, pesticides, poor nutrition because of loss of foraging and nesting habitat, fewer beekeepers, changes in land use, and changes in local weather or climate. Honey bee pollination of U.S. crops is valued at $15-18 billion while pollination by native bees is valued at $3 billion.
Marks a new era for farm & food policy
Chairman Frank Lucas issued the following statement today after President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 into law.
“The amazing reality about farm bills is that they reflect the times in which we live. They are reviewed, written, debated, and reauthorized nearly every five years. Today our concerns are rightly placed on reducing the size and cost of the federal government. With the president signing the Agricultural Act of 2014 into law, we mark a new era of farm and food policy that values saving money, reforming or repealing government programs, and yet still providing an effective safety net for the production of our national food supply and for those Americans who are struggling.
After nearly four years of work, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 2014 Farm Bill conference report (H.R. 2642) with a bipartisan 251-166 vote on Jan. 29. And the Senate passed it Feb. 4, with a bipartisan 68-32 vote.
It’s been a challenging and sometimes frustrating few years. I’ve described the process as lunacy, Never-Never Land, and have lamented being caught in farm bill hell. But I refused to give up and through it all, the Agriculture Committee members were able to work together and get the job done.
The Agriculture Committees have a strong tradition of cooperation. We listen to each other, try to understand each other and work together in the best interests of our constituents. Some see us as the only Committees in Congress that can put partisan politics aside in favor of a compromise.
The 2014 Farm Bill continues this bipartisan tradition.
Workshops held in this area during the next few weeks are good opportunities to learn more about taking care of soil health and productivity through a variety of management practices. Soil health and productivity are tied to soil structure and tilth and good soil biology.
Soil structure and tilth affects how easily roots can spread out in the soil. It affects the mix or air, water and soil particles that affect root systems health and the vitality of beneficial insects and micro-organisms in the soil. Soil drainage characteristics are an important factor in our areas.
We talk about using cover crops like tillage radishes, turnips, and deep rooted forage crops like alfalfa to breakup soil compaction and add organic matter to improve soil structure, soil health and drainage characteristics of the soil. There’s probably some truth to that. I’d suggest that we need to take a look first at what we’re doing to ruin soil structure and soil health. One of the first things to look at in this regard might be tillage practices. Excessive tillage breaks down soil structure and can cause a more rapid loss of organic matter in the soil.
Paula Mohr, editor of The Farmer magazine, received the 2013 MASWCD Media Award from the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD). Paula was presented the award by Mike Jorgenson, West Central Area 2 Director, Monday, Dec. 2, at the MASWCD annual convention in Bloomington. The MASWCD is a non-profit organization that represents the soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) of Minnesota www.maswcd.org/index.htm. They provide training and leadership to SWCDs, and a common voice to communicate their efforts to other agencies, partners, and legislators.