A group of Iowa conservation partners is encouraging farmers to use a special funding opportunity for monarch butterfly and other pollinator-supporting practices on their farms.
Through a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) project called Improving Working Lands for Monarch Butterflies, Pheasants Forever, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation are collaborating to provide incentive payments to Iowa landowners for planting diverse stands of native grasses and wildflowers that benefit pollinators and other wildlife.
Apply by July 12 for next round of funding
The Monarch RCPP project is funded through the NRCS-administered Conservation Stewardship Program. NRCS accepts program applications on a continuous basis, but only applications filed by July 12 are eligible for the next round of funding.
Josh Divan, coordinating wildlife biologist with Pheasants Forever, says monarch plantings can be established in areas of unproductive cropland, used to square up oddly shaped fields, and used in sensitive areas such as buffers around waterways or wetlands, in pastures, and in other suitable locations.
“The Monarch RCPP-CSP supports new and existing conservation activities on cropland and pastureland,” he says, “helping to reduce erosion, improve soil health, control invasive species, provide quality livestock forage, and make ag operations more resilient and productive.”
Iowa leader in CSP acres
Iowa NRCS state conservationist Kurt Simon says Iowa is one of the national leaders in CSP contracts and acres. Last year, 499 farmers signed five-year CSP contracts that will help treat resource concerns on 264,000 acres. “CSP is a very effective tool for private landowners working to achieve their conservation and management goals,” Simon says.
For more information about the RCPP-CSP monarch project, visit your local NRCS office or go to ia.nrcs.usda.gov.
Watch monarch’s 3,000-mile migration
The National Corn Growers Association and the Environmental Defense Fund last week introduced an online video The Monarch Effect. An interactive, virtual reality experience that debuted during National Pollinator Week, it was created by EDF and NCGA. “The Monarch Effect” immerses viewers in the monarch butterflies’ 3,000-mile migration through North America.
The journey begins in the forests of central Mexico, where tens of millions of monarchs spend the winter. Viewers join consecutive generations of monarchs as they fly north into the American heartland looking for milkweed and wildflower habitat they need to survive.
“Being surrounded by millions of monarchs during our shoot in Mexico was one of the most surreal and magical moments of my life,” says Eric Holst, vice president for working lands at EDF. “This technology transports people there, letting them feel that same sense of awe.”
Everyone encouraged to plant habitat
Monarch populations have plummeted 90% over the past two decades due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and extreme and variable weather. The species is a bellwether for the overall health of ecosystems and working lands. Now, farmers, ranchers and entire communities are stepping up to ensure this beloved butterfly recovers and thrives for generations to come.
“What is good for monarchs is also good for farmers. By adding pollinator habitat to existing conservation practices, producers can simultaneously increase biodiversity, soil health, water quality and ultimately, overall operational resilience,” Holst says.
“Monarch butterflies migrate through the Corn Belt. Farmers along that migration path, including those featured in the video, prove that pollinator habitat can be a part of productive farming operations,” says Nathan Fields, vice president of production and sustainability at NCGA.
Meet farmers behind video
Monarchs, and the viewers accompanying them, make two pit stops on the migration north. Amy and George Greer, sixth-generation cattle ranchers, greet them at Winters-Wall Ranch in Brady, Texas. Kevin and Sara Ross and their kids, grain and cattle farmers, greet the monarchs at Ross Land & Cattle near Minden, Iowa.
“While we say this is our ranch, it’s not really ours. It’s habitat for all the other critters that live here, and move through, like the monarchs,” Amy Greer says.
“For us it’s about biodiversity. We need different grasses and feedstocks for our farming operation,” says Kevin Ross, who is active in the Iowa Corn Growers Association and is serving as vice president of NCGA. “When you walk along rural roads seeing milkweed and the monarch life cycle in action, watching that process, it’s neat.”