Bees are a lifeline for farms producing the world’s fruits, vegetables, nuts and other nutrient-rich foods. Bees pollinate billions of dollars’ worth of crops and play an essential role in our food supply. Pollinators are responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat and contribute more than $15 billion to our nation's crop values each year.
But these days, we don’t see as many bees. That’s because they are dying at an increasing rate, making the future of our food security uncertain. Their plight is hardly a secret, and increasingly concerned citizens are responding with meaningful solutions.
Collaborations between farmers and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to create better landscapes for bees and other pollinators have been going on for several years. The recently launched Bee Better Certification program funded through the NRCS Conservation Innovations Grant program has gained interest from big names in retail.
The Bee Better Certification program certifies the use of pollinator-friendly conservation practices on farms. After the farmer is Bee Better certified, they can use the Bee Better seal on their product packaging, giving consumers the option to support farms that are supporting bees.
So far, the Bee Better standards have been adopted on nearly 20,000 acres of land, and products with the Bee Better label are being used by major retailers including Haagen-Dazs. The ice cream company committed to adopting Bee Better standards for their entire almond supply, adding nearly a half dozen Bee Better Certified ice cream flavors to their menu.
Many of the West Coast’s blueberry and cherry packer giants have also joined the ranks, including CalGiant, Rainier Fruit and Homegrown Organic, and are marketing Bee Better fruit in national grocery chains and club stores.
Other farms are joining Bee Better, including Villicus Farms, a 10,000-acre organic grain operation in northern Montana and many wine grape vineyards in Washington, Oregon and California. Beyond the U.S., South American farms and produce companies supplying the domestic market with fresh fruit during the winter, have also expressed interest in the Bee Better standards.