US to spend $4M to aid honeybee health

The federal government will give Midwest farmers and ranchers more than $4 million to help improve the health of honeybees, Agriculture Secretary Tom VilsackThomas J. VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE announced Wednesday.

Honeybees play “an important role” in crop production, the department said. The bees pollinate about $15 billion worth of crops each year.

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“The future of America's food supply depends on honey bees, and this effort is one way [the U.S. Department of Agriculture] USDA is helping improve the health of honey bee populations," Vilsack said in a statement.

Farmers and ranchers who receive the funding will be able to use it for providing diverse and safe food sources for honeybees. A branch of the USDA is going to focus the effort on Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Nearly two-thirds of the nation’s commercially managed honeybees are located in the Midwest and need access to food sources to prepare for winter, the department said. 

Foods like almonds, berries, tree nuts and fruits and vegetables depend on pollination by honeybees. Honeybees have been dying off in record numbers, however, due to phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.

The total number of bee colonies in the U.S. dropped from 5 million in the 1940s to 2.5 million today.