Our Pollinator Projects

KRC Receives Funding for Pollinator Protection Work

by Joanna Voigt

January 1, 2017 – The Kansas Rural Center has received funding from the Ceres Trust to carry out work to protect pollinators from the harms of pesticides by organizing a grassroots effort that engages farmers, beekeepers, conservationists, local food advocates and others. The project will raise awareness about the harmful effects of pesticides on pollinators, offer information and education on safe alternatives to pesticide use in agriculture, and advocate for public policy and programs that support a diversified, ecologically based agricultural system that promotes pollinator health.

In the US and around the world, pollinator populations have been declining for a number of years. Habitat loss, increasing use of pesticides, decreasing biodiversity, diseases, pests, and other environmental stressors have all contributed to long-term declines in pollinator populations. Recent, particularly dramatic declines in pollinator populations correspond startlingly to the rapid rise in use of systemic pesticides within the last decade. Systemic pesticides, particularly those in the neonicotinoid class, are thought to cause significant harm to pollinators, as well as other species, and their indiscriminate use is cause for alarm and a call to action.

In agriculture, the primary use of neonicotinoids is as a seed treatment for corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, sorghum, and sugar beets. The dominant agricultural system in the US is heavily dependent on chemical inputs and use of seeds treated with systemic pesticides has become standard. The Center for Food Safety reports that, with the exception of the 0.2% of corn seed used in organic production, nearly all the corn seed planted in the US is treated with clothianidin or thiamethoxam, two of the five neonicotinoid class systemic pesticides. Last year, in Kansas alone, 4.15 million acres were planted to corn, 3.9 million acres to soybeans, and 3.4 million acres to sorghum, with a whopping majority of those acres planted using neonicotinoid treated seeds.

In addition to seed treatments, soil drenches and aerial spraying of pesticides can have devastating effects on pollinators. These practices, too, are utilized widely in the agricultural landscape.

Kansas is, however, home to an organic farming community that utilizes farming methods that do not rely on harmful pesticides and include practices that promote pollinator health. There is also a growing body of conventional farmers who are interested in soil health and understand that decreasing or eliminating pesticides may be necessary to building truly healthy soil. These farmers can help lead the way toward a farming system with reduced or no pesticides.

With the funding from the Ceres Trust, KRC will work to raise awareness about the harmful impacts of neonicotinoids on pollinators, and to offer information on alternative farming practices that reduce or eliminate the need for use of harmful pesticides.

A day-long workshop will provide education on the harmful impacts of pesticides on pollinators and strategies for effectively utilizing farming practices that eliminate pesticide use and promote pollinator health. The workshop will be held during the spring of 2017 and will include a farm tour or panel discussion with farmers who are successfully implementing practices that reduce or eliminate pesticide use.

KRC will include educational sessions on the harmful impacts of pesticides and information on farming practices that reduce or eliminate pesticide use at our annual conference and at our Women in Farming 2017 workshop and tour, and we will work with Kansas Organic Producers and other interested farm organizations to provide information on pollinator issues at their workshops or annual events.

Additionally, KRC will organize a stakeholder work group to explore policy initiatives that could help protect pollinators from pesticides and will work to mobilize grassroots action towards pollinator protection.

To receive information about this project, please sign up for our e-mail updates at https://kansasruralcenter.org/, or contact Project Coordinator, Joanna Voigt, at jvoigt@kansasruralcenter.org, or 866-579-5469.