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  • Writer's picturePollinator Stewardship Council

In Support of Farmers

Modern agriculture faces substantial challenges and uncertainties.  Today's farmers grapple with many obstacles including climate change, depleted resources, market fluctuations, rising costs, surges in resistant pests and diseases, labor shortages, and water scarcity.  The Farm Bureau reports that over a five-year period from 2017 to 2022, the agricultural industry experienced the shuttering of 140,000 farms, a bleak figure that illustrates the conditions of modern farming.  Over the past hundred years, farmers greatly increased the amount of food grown per acre but scientific research has identified that the increase comes with a significant cost.  Studies show that some conventional farming practices including the use of neonic pesticides harm the health of soil, pollinators, birds, fish, air, water, and humans.

Regenerative agriculture emerges as a beacon of hope, offering a farming approach that sustains and regenerates the land.  Mimicking natural ecosystems is critical for sustainable food production and includes avoiding practices like plowing; reducing of chemical inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides; protecting soil from erosion; and fostering biodiversity, crop rotation, and integrating animals and insects into agricultural systems. 

Together, these practices are proven to sustain soil biology and nutrient cycling, supporting the natural balance of the ecosystem and reducing the need for pesticides, while ensuring food production and providing farmers with sufficient income.

Pollinators are indispensable allies in agricultural production, facilitating the reproduction of flowering plants by transferring pollen from one flower to another.  The result?  Bountiful harvests of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.  By enhancing soil health and biodiversity, regenerative practices bolster the resilience of agroecosystems, making them more resistant to pests, diseases, and extreme weather events.  This resilience translates into increased food security for communities as farmers are better equipped to weather challenges and maintain consistent yields.

In the evolving landscape of agriculture, honey bees stand as invaluable sentinels, akin to the canary in the coal mine.  Their ability to demonstrate the effects of pesticides makes them indispensable gauges for helping us understand the necessary modifications or alterations in agricultural practices.  By understanding the impact of these chemicals on honey bee populations, we gain crucial insights into the overall functionality and health of agricultural ecosystems, as well as their broader repercussions on other systems, including human health.  The significant decline of honey bee populations is intricately linked to the health and outcomes of agriculture.  Utilizing this crucial role demands proactive steps, such as integrating field monitoring techniques like pollen testing, as we are currently overlooking the wealth of untapped data that bees can offer through such strategies. 

Failure to harness this potential data source represents a missed opportunity to glean essential information directly from the field, hindering our ability to safeguard the future of agriculture and ensure environmental vitality and sustainability.

As research continues to indicate that regenerative agriculture is critical for the future of food, transitional support for farmers is critical.  Land-grant universities typically serve as the fundamental educational network that educates the upcoming generation of agriculture professionals, and regenerative farming education and research are integrated into the university systems.  Last year, the USDA invested over $46 million towards the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, supporting farmer-driven grants and community-based educational endeavors, yielding climate-smart solutions for farms and ranches to support a more sustainable and resilient food production system.  In 2022, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded almost $2.2 billion in grant funds with the top priority of climate resilience and U.S. agriculture’s ability to be part of the climate solution.  Ongoing research on regenerative agriculture will help provide the skills and support needed to help farmers through this vital transition. 

Regenerative agriculture practices offer a pathway to a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable food system.  By harnessing the power of pollinators and embracing the principles of regenerative farming, we can enhance food security, support farmers, and nurture the health of our planet's ecosystems.  Many of PSC’s board members have experience farming or working in agriculture, and we believe that farming and pollinator protection are not opposing forces but intertwined as an interdependent symbiotic system.

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