Preserving and increasing the U.S. honey bee population has become more important than ever in recent years as parasites, disease, pesticides and loss of habitat have decreased the bee population across the country from 6 million managed honey bee colonies in 1947 to just 2.5 million in 2014. This problem threatens more than $15 billion in U.S. fruit, vegetable and nut production, because yield depends on the pollination process. In an effort to restore the numbers to healthy levels, the federal government, sometimes through individual states and sometimes directly, has made grant funds available for businesses that raise honey bees.
Farmers Market Promotion Program
The USDA's Farmers Market Promotion Program provides funding to domestic agricultural producers, including those in the business of raising honey bees, for the purpose of giving U.S. communities greater access to locally produced agricultural goods. Awards are typically from $5,000 to 100,000. Grants from this program are made to benefit only groups of two or more farms or vendors who produce honey for direct sale to consumers. Eligible applicants include agricultural businesses and cooperatives located in any of the 50 states, Washington, D.C. and various U.S. protectorates. Applications are accepted once per year, and application materials are accessible through the Grants.gov website.
USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program
The USDA makes grant money available to small, rural, nonprofit businesses that benefit their surrounding communities. To be eligible, your honey bee business must:
- Be a nonprofit or private corporation.
- Have fewer than 50 employees.
- Be located in a rural area outside a city of with a population of 50,000 or more.
- Have less than $1 million in annual gross revenue.
Amounts are typically between $10,000 and $500,000. The funds may be used to buy land and equipment needed for your honey bee business, or to renovate exiting buildings for use in your business.
This grant is administered by your local USDA Rural Development office, and applications are accepted once a year.
USDA Conservation Innovation Grants
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offers money to certain states for distribution to agricultural businesses, such as apiaries, as Conservation Innovation Grants. To be eligible for a CIG, your business must:
- Use innovative approaches to impact the environment in connection with agricultural production.
- Be located in Pennsylvania, Texas, Connecticut, Arkansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina or Missouri.
Each state has its own application process. The state grants are accessible through the federal Grants.gov website.
USDA Conservation Reserve Program Pollinator Initiative
In 2014 the U.S. Department of Agriculture funded a Conservation Reserve Program pollinator initiative, in which $8 million is made available to farmers and ranchers who meet the following criteria:
- You intend to strengthen and increase the number of honey bee colonies by replacing diminishing food sources and habitats necessary for raising honey bees, such as replacing existing honey bee habitats with more nutritious flowering plants.* You are located in North or South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan or Minnesota.
If you are a farmer or rancher in one of these states, you can access this grant program by contacting the Farm Service Agency office for your community, or by logging on to the FSA website. This program requires approval of your land for inclusion in the Conservation Reserve Program and application to the FSA for access to grant funds.