With a November 16 deadline approaching, Pheasants and Quail Forever is encouraging farmers and ranchers to consider utilizing a federal program that provides financial and technical assistance to establish habitat that benefits Monarch butterflies and other wildlife.
Jake Swafford, Coordinating Wildlife Biologist, said the Monarch Initiative administered by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps landowners establish milkweed and other nectar-rich plants that provide food for Monarchs and other pollinators, such as honey bees, that are vital to agriculture.
To accelerate conservation benefits to Monarch butterflies, Missouri established a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Project. This project focuses on encouraging landowners to establish monarch-friendly plantings as well as completing practices that assist with managing those beneficial areas by controlling brush and weeds, protecting them from pesticides, and installing a fence for grazing systems.
“I hope that producers who have heard about the Monarch programs in the past but haven’t applied will take another look at how it could fit into their operations,” Swafford said. “There also might be producers who weren’t eligible before, but they might be eligible now.”
Swafford said establishing milkweed in this area is important because 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. And conservation practices 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 pollinator plantings can be placed along field borders, in buffers around waterways or wetlands, in pastures, and in other suitable locations. NRCS also can help producers manage their pastures in ways that increase critical populations of milkweed and nectar plants while also improving the health of their rangelands.
NRCS accepts applications on a continuous basis, but only applications filed by November 16 are eligible for the next round of funding through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
For more information about any NRCS programs, please check with your local USDA field office, or contact Jake Swafford at (573) 881-1224 or email at [email protected] for more information about wildlife habitat assistance.