Pollinator Partnership CEO: Good work, communication must continue

Laurie Davies Adams likes the work she sees some farmers and ranchers doing to benefit pollinators, and believes it must continue.

“What would really solve the problem is right out there in those fields,” the president and CEO of the San Francisco-based Pollinator Partnership said in an interview at Vine and Branch Ranch outside Caldwell, Idaho, on June 22. “People communicating with other people and sharing their experiences — that is what is going to create the change.”

Many populations of bees and other pollinating insects are in decline for reasons including loss of feeding and nesting habitats, the group says.

Pollinators benefit when farms and ranches add or preserve pollinator habitat, and take care of soils, Adams said.

“We never lose sight of the fact that the farmer is here, raising crops and making a living,” she said. “But as good stewards, farmers want their landscapes and the soil to be as productive as possible. Pollinators play a real role in that.”

Many farmers in the Northwest and California are using pollinator-friendly practices, Adams said. Their experiences with soils, plants and pollinators can have a larger impact.

She was in Caldwell to wrap up National Pollinator Week largely because new Pollinator Partnership board member Ron Bitner, a local wine grape grower and bee scientist, aims to expand the organization’s Bee Friendly Farms certification program in the Northwest and California.

For the national awareness week, “I had the chance to attend a congressional briefing, or to come to Idaho to talk to alfalfa growers,” Adams said. “I made the right choice.”

Southwest Idaho’s abundance of seed and specialty crops, much of that bounty requiring pollination, was a draw, she said.

McIntyre Farms outside Caldwell uses no-till farming, and incorporates pollinator-friendly plants in cover crops and in premium pasture, farmer Brad McIntyre said. Goals include soil and animal health, and “to keep things blooming as frequently as we can” for pollinators.

Bitner said 400 to 500 species of non-honey bees have been identified in southwest Idaho. The total is about the same for southeastern Oregon, around 900 in California and 4,000 nationwide.

Pollinator planning is best done by ecological region rather than by states acting independently, Adams said.

“Regional activities always mattered, and they matter more now,” she said. “The whole chain of influence that starts here, these efforts are impacting agriculture everywhere.”