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USDA study assesses pollinator health

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, crops that depend on pollinators account for up to one-third of total U.S. food consumption.

With that information in mind, the health of our nation's pollinators should be a primary concern, not only for our nation's beekeepers and the farmers that rely on pollinators to produce crops, but all of us as consumers of food.

A recent study by USDA's Economic Research Service found that both managed honey bees and native pollinators face a variety of stress factors that affect colony health. Those stress factors include diseases, insect pests, pesticide exposure and changing landscapes.

* In the spring of 2015, beekeepers reported that nearly 45 percent of their colonies were affected by varroa mites, 20 percent were affected by other pests, and 17 percent were affected by pesticides.

Based on available data, honey bee mortality, as measured by the loss of a honey bee colony, is higher than in previous decades, with annual colony losses varying between 29 and 45 percent from 2010-11 to 2015-16.

But the encouraging news is that despite the increase in colony losses, beekeepers in the United States have maintained or even increased their number of colonies over the last decade through intensive management of their colonies.

* According to USDA, the number of honey-producing colonies has increased from 2.44 million in 2007 to 2.66 million in 2015, an increase of 9 percent. And over that same period, the value of production of the top 10 pollinator-dependent crops grew by a weighted average of around 76 percent.

Beekeepers have been able to increase their number of colonies by adapting a variety of bee-management practices. Such practices include the splitting of a honey bee colony and adding a new queen to one of the splits; systematic monitoring of colonies for pests and pathogens; and providing supplemental feeding.

Study findings also indicate that assessing the health status of native pollinators is difficult because reliable long-term population data are not available. However, the evidence points to population decline for several wild bee species — most notably bumblebees — in addition to declines for some butterflies, bats, and hummingbirds.

To view the entire findings of the study "Land Use, Land Cover, and Pollinator Health: A Review and Trend Analysis," visit www.ers.usda.gov/publications.

USDA projects major decline in wheat production

The USDA's June Production Report, which reflected the condition of the nation's wheat crop as of July 1, provided some rather startling projected declines in wheat production this year.

The projected declines in production reflect both a reduction in harvested acreage and some dramatic declines in yields, especially in the principal wheat-producing states of Montana and North Dakota, where severe drought conditions have impacted crop conditions.

Winter wheat production is expected to total 1.28 billion bushels, down 23 percent from 2016.

Based on July 1 conditions, winter wheat yields nationwide were projected to average 49.7 bushels per acre, down 5.6 bushels from last year. However, this would be the second-highest winter wheat yield on record for the United States, behind only last year's record high.

Winter wheat acreage harvested for grain or seed is expected to total 25.8 million acres, down 15 percent from last year.

Durum wheat production was forecast at 57.5 million bushels, down 45 percent from 2016.

Based on July 1 conditions, durum wheat yields nationwide are expected to average 30.9 bushels per acre, down 13.1 bushels from last year.

Harvested acreage of durum wheat is expected to total 1.86 million acres, down 21 percent from 2016.

Spring wheat production is expected to total 423 million bushels, down 21 percent from 2016.

Based on July 1 conditions, spring wheat yields in the U.S. are projected to average 40.3 bushels per acre, down 6.9 bushels from last year.

Spring wheat acreage harvested for grain is expected to total 10.5 million acres, down 7 percent from last year.

But despite the nationwide projected declines in wheat production, yields and harvested acreage, the opposite is true for Minnesota's 2017 spring wheat crop.

Committee nominations due Aug. 1

The deadline to submit nominations for the Farm Service Agency's 2017 county committee election is Aug. 1.

Eligible voters can nominate, by petition, candidates of their choice. Nomination forms are available at county Farm Service Agency offices, or online at www.fsa.usda.gov.

The agency is especially interested in receiving nominations of individuals that represent minority groups, including women. Election ballots will be mailed to all eligible voters in early November, with elected candidates serving a three-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

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