WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- General Mills, the Xerces Society, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announce a major milestone in their partnership to restore and protect pollinator habitat across hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in North America. The five-year, $4 million financial commitment between General Mills and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will support farmers across the U.S. by providing technical assistance to plant and protect pollinator habitat, such as native wildflower field edges and flowering hedgerows.
Through 2021, this partnership will help to plant over 100,000 acres of pollinator habitat. Providing habitat in agriculture landscapes has been shown to help a variety of pollinators, including bumble bees, squash bees, honey bees and butterflies, and provides benefits to crops that need insect pollinators. Such habitat can also improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and provide habitat for game and songbirds.
"Two-thirds of the continental United States is privately owned, making the land management decisions of America's farmers, ranchers and forest landowners essential to pollinator health," NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. "Agricultural producers can make relatively simple tweaks on working lands that benefit bees, butterflies and other pollinators while improving the operation as a whole. NRCS offers more than three dozen conservation practices that can benefit pollinators, and this partnership will enable us to better plan and implement these practices."
In North America alone, bees are responsible for over $25 billion in agricultural production each year. In addition to improving the yield of many crop species, research demonstrates that pollinators such as bees may also improve the nutritional value and commercial quality of some crops.
"Pollinators supply one-third of the food and beverages that Americans consume," said Jerry Lynch, Chief Sustainability Officer at General Mills. "As part of General Mills' global commitment to treat the world with care, our investment will help pollinators to continue to play a key role in sustainable food production in the U.S."
To create and accelerate habitat restoration for pollinators, this partnership will support six Xerces/NRCS Pollinator Conservation Biologists jointly managed by the NRCS and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the largest and oldest pollinator conservation organization in the world. This biologist team will support U.S. farmers by providing individual consulting on habitat restoration and pollinator-friendly farm management practices, evaluate habitat, and serve as advisors to other conservation agency staff in the regions they serve. The biologists will be based in California, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Maine.
"To date, our work with NRCS has resulted in hundreds of thousands of acres of new or improved habitat," said Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director of the Xerces Society. "This partnership will allow us to expand conservation support in the Midwest, Northeast and California, reaching many more farmers and bringing greater benefits to the pollinators on which we all rely."
About The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service
Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with a record 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect land and water on over 400 million acres nationwide. For an interactive look at USDA's work in conservation and forestry over the course of this Administration, visit USDA Results: Caring for our Air, Land and Water.
About the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
The non-profit Xerces Society has been protecting the life that sustains us since 1971. In the past decade, Xerces has built the world's largest pollinator conservation team. With 15 pollinator conservation specialists working closely with state and federal agencies—including 4 joint positions with the NRCS—as well as one-on-one with growers, the Society's work has resulted in the creation or enhancement of over 400,000 acres of pollinator habitat and the training of more than 70,000 farmers and other agricultural professionals. To learn more about the Society's work, please visit www.xerces.org.
About General Mills
General Mills is a leading global food company that serves the world by making food people love. Its brands include Cheerios, Annie's, Yoplait, Nature Valley, Fiber One, Haagen-Dazs, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Old El Paso, Wanchai Ferry, Yoki and more. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, General Mills had fiscal 2016 worldwide sales of US $17.6 billion, including the company's US $1.0 billion proportionate share of joint-venture net sales. For more information about General Mills, visit www.generalmills.com.
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SOURCE General Mills