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Farmers Encouraged to Consider Monarch, Pollinator Habitat
Indiana Ag Connection - 07/11/2019

With an Aug. 9 sign-up deadline approaching, Pheasants and Quail Forever and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced today they are accepting applications to establish habitat for monarch butterflies and other wildlife.

To accelerate conservation benefits to pollinators with a focus on monarch butterflies, Indiana is participating in a multi-state Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) project which directs additional funds to these habitat efforts, including the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. This project focuses on encouraging landowners to establish monarch-friendly plantings as well as completing enhancements that help manage beneficial areas by controlling brush and weeds, protecting them from pesticides, and improving grazing systems.

Jake Swafford, Coordinating Wildlife Biologist with Pheasants Forever, said the Improving Working Lands for Monarch Butterfly RCPP, administered by NRCS with funding from the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), helps landowners establish milkweed and other nectar-rich plants that provide food for monarchs and other pollinators, such as honey bees, which are vital to agriculture.

"I hope producers who are interested in pollinators, especially monarch butterflies, will take the time to look at how this program could fit into their operations," said Jerry Raynor, Indiana NRCS State Conservationist, "There are many benefits that pollinator habitats can provide, from increased crop yields to lower input costs to aesthetics."

Establishing and restoring native grasslands with milkweed and other nectar-rich plants is critically important beca8se it is in the heart of the butterfly's habitat and migration route. Milkweed also provides homes for beneficial insects that control the spread of destructive insects. Also, conservation enhancements that provide benefits for pollinators also help reduce erosion, increase soil health, control invasive species, provide quality forage for livestock and make agricultural operations more resilient and productive.

Swafford said, "CSP is a terrific program that rewards farmers for conservation they are already doing, while encouraging them to do more. This signup works the same way but focuses on ways to improve monarch butterfly and pollinator habitat on their working lands. Plantings can be established in areas of unproductive cropland, along field borders, in buffers around waterways or wetlands, in pastures, and in other suitable locations."

NRCS accepts applications on a continuous basis, but only applications filed by Aug. 9 in Indiana are eligible for the next round of funding through the Improving Working Lands for Monarch Butterflies RCPP.

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