Beekeeping and the Conservation Reserve Program

Our food supply depends on bees for pollination. Scientists and beekeepers have seen a drastic decline in bee populations over the past two decades. Causes include exposure to pesticides, lack of suitable habitat for nesting and foraging, and parasites and pathogens.

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has an initiative called CP42, or Pollinator Habitat, which can help establish more nesting and foraging habitat for bees. It encourages the planting of wildflowers and legumes, with an emphasis on native species and plants that bloom throughout the growing season. This could have significant impacts on bee health.

Randall Cass, an Iowa State University Extension entomologist, says this can be planted as a large strip of grassland or in smaller patches adjacent to farmland. ISU research has shown more diversity and abundance of native bee species in grasslands than in agricultural sites.

“Other research shows that hives taken from an area where there is mainly agricultural production around them and moved to a site where there is grassland present have a higher mass at the end of the season” , explains Cass. “So they have more stored food, more stored nectar, more stored pollen, and that’s important before winter. We are also seeing a greater abundance of different pollinators.

Hives do not have to be owned and maintained by the landowner. Cass says the challenge is to connect these landowners to beekeepers.

“The easiest way is to go online and find the nearest beekeeping association or beekeeping organization,” he says. “Whenever landowners ask for ways to get bees on their land, I usually try to put them in touch with their nearest local beekeeping association to see if there is anyone who is interested in put bees on their site.”

CP-42 Eligibility

According to the USDA Farm Service Agency, the CP42 practice will be offered through continuous registration. To be eligible for CP42:

  • The land must be cropland and meet the crop history requirements as specified in the Code of Federal Regulations.

  • Land currently listed on the CRP may be resubmitted for listing on CP42 if the land listed on the CRP is in the final year of the CRP-1 contract.

  • Entire fields can be entered. If not planted in whole fields, block plantings are preferred over strips. If planted in strips, each strip should be at least 20 feet wide.

  • The minimum size required is 0.5 acres.

  • Contracts for CP42 cabinets must have a duration of 10 years.