Farm Food Facts

Franklin Holley, Wayne Fredericks, Monarch Butterflies

June 18, 2019 USFRA, Franklin Holley, Wayne Fredericks, Phil Lempert Episode 29
Farm Food Facts
Franklin Holley, Wayne Fredericks, Monarch Butterflies
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Franklin Holley, Wayne Fredericks, Monarch Butterflies
Jun 18, 2019 Episode 29
USFRA, Franklin Holley, Wayne Fredericks, Phil Lempert

Our thought leader for this week's "Farm, Food, Facts" podcast is Franklin Holley, Senior Policy Director at Keystone https://farmersformonarchs.org


The stories you need to know:
• Many foods will disappear if Honey Bees go extinct—here’s an unsettling glimpse at a future without avocados or coffee.
• Food Companies turn to Regenerative Agriculture to meet Sustainability Goals.
• Trash or Treasure? Upcycled Food Waste is worth $46.7 Billion.

This week's farmer is Wayne Fredericks, Pollinator Habitat Champion

Show Notes Transcript

Our thought leader for this week's "Farm, Food, Facts" podcast is Franklin Holley, Senior Policy Director at Keystone https://farmersformonarchs.org


The stories you need to know:
• Many foods will disappear if Honey Bees go extinct—here’s an unsettling glimpse at a future without avocados or coffee.
• Food Companies turn to Regenerative Agriculture to meet Sustainability Goals.
• Trash or Treasure? Upcycled Food Waste is worth $46.7 Billion.

This week's farmer is Wayne Fredericks, Pollinator Habitat Champion

Phil Lempert:

Farm, Food, Facts: where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to the Farm, Food, Facts interactive podcast presented by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance for Wednesday, June 19th, 2019. I'm your host, Phil Lempert.

Phil Lempert:

Monarch populations have declined over the past two decades. This is important, as these beautiful butterflies contribute to the health of our planet. They have the responsibility to pollinate many types of wild flowers. To give you some idea of what has happened, just in California, the monarch butterfly population has dropped to less than half of 1% of its historical size. The Monarch Collaborative works in partnership with the farming and ranching community to support and enhance habitat for sustainable monarch population while maintaining thriving working lands. First up, we'll talk with Franklin Holley, senior policy director at the Keystone Policy Center. Then later on, with Wayne Fredericks, who'll join us with his perspective as a farmer about the importance and his fears about the monarch butterfly. Franklin has over a decade of experience in sustainable agriculture, community development and conservation programming, leading diverse efforts and groups of people to better outcomes for our people and our planet, in both rural and urban settings. As a senior policy director at Keystone, she works on multi-stakeholder food and ag initiatives focused on soil health, water quality and scarcity, wildlife habitat and biodiversity and ensuring solutions to these challenges that work for agricultural producers, the supply chain and end users. She is leading their effort on the Monarch Collaborative. Franklin, welcome to Farm, Food, Facts.

Franklin Holley:

It's a pleasure to be here.

Phil Lempert:

So Franklin, tell me what exactly is the Monarch Collaborative and who are the stakeholders?

Franklin Holley:

Great question. So, the Monarch Collaborative is actually an initiative of the Keystone Policy Center as you mentioned, and Keystone is a trusted non-profit organization. We were founded in 1975 to drive actionable, shared solutions to contentious agriculture, environment, energy, education and public health issues. And the Monarch Collaborative sits within our agriculture program. Given the monarch population declines over the past couple of decades, the Monarch Collaborative is working to identify how partnerships in the farming and ranching community can support and enhance habitat for sustainable monarch butterfly populations. The collaborative initially convened in 2015, and it currently consistent national organizations that represent farmers and ranchers and landowners, businesses that work along the agricultural supply chain, researchers and academic institutions, federal and state entities as well as conservation organizations. The collaborative itself supports productive agriculture and livestock operations in concert with monarch conservation. And an increase in milkweed and nectar plants that is appropriately placed rural and agricultural areas can benefit monarch without inhibiting productivity. And so, the collaborative is really committed to making progress voluntary effort to restore, enhance and protect monarch habitat while maintaining producers flexibility in their own operation.

Phil Lempert:

Let me ask you something here, and obviously, I'm coming from one point of view. How important with all the stakeholders that you mentioned is the role of the farmer in the collaborative and how do you use and build on their expertise, if at all?

Franklin Holley:

Absolutely. Farmers and ranchers are the stewards of the land across much of monarch habitat. They are really in a unique position to support sustainable monarch populations. And so for that reason, farmers and ranchers are central for the mission of the Monarch Collaborative. And they're actively engaged in the collaborative from representation from the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, and the National Association of Wheat Growers. And we know that farmers, ranchers and landowners are already engaged in conservation initiatives and those focused on water quality or erosion control, wildlife or pollinator habitat, and these efforts demonstrate that continuning innovation in ag practices can reduce environmental impacts, it can increase crop productivtiy, and ultimately be compatible with monarch conservation efforts. Really, what it comes down to, is reversing the trend in monarch decline will require continued, coordinated and collaborative efforts. And engaging in voluntary habitat conservation can be a win-win for everybody involved and also ensure productive land as well as resilient monarch populations.

Phil Lempert:

Let me flip it around. What are the resources that you have that are available for farmers?

Franklin Holley:

Our newest resource is somethingwe are really proud of, and it is farmersformonarchs.org, no spaces. And farmersformonarch.org Is the collaborative's web-based resource that offers a one stop shop for farmers and ranchers where they can go to easily identify and implement solutions on their land to achieve a sustainable monarch butterfly population. So, rather than having to go to several different websites, or several different meetings, it's a place where a farmer-landowner can get that started. It includes information on the current status of the monarch, but the most important resources that we have is a 12 state directly of incentives and cost-share programs, commercial feed providers, technical assistance and then more information about the region. And for the states that are outside of the Midwest, which is the 12 that we have broken down as far as resources go, we have national information and resources provided as well. And all the information on Farmers for Monarchs is farmer friendly. It's in lay-person terms and it's very accessible. And we also are always open for questions or comments or additional resources that we might need to add for farmersformonarchs.org.

Phil Lempert:

Give us that website one more time?

Franklin Holley:

Sure. That's https://farmersformonarchs.org. I'm just going to mention another effort that we've done on behalf of and with the farmer and rancher members that we have: the collaborative and its members have coordinated with the Honey Bee Health Coalition and assembled this set of recommendations that are geared towards enhancing Honey Bee, Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator habitat and forage in USDA's Private Lands Conservation Program, and we've shared those directly with the department. And those include addressing barriers and disincentives to enrollment, increasing management options and especially flexibility to foster conservation in concert with driving farm and ranch operation.

Phil Lempert:

Franklin, it looks like you've got it under control, and the future of the monarch butterfly is going to be very positive, based on what you're doing with the collaborative. So thank you so much for joining us today on Farm, Food, Facts.

Franklin Holley:

Absolutely. Thank you.

Phil Lempert:

And now, here's the news. Many foods will disappear if honeybees go extinct. Here's an unsettling glimpse at a future without avocados or coffee. Honeybee colonies are rapidly dying out and figuring out ways to save them is a huge challenge. In 2017, beekeepers in the U.S. reported losing approximately 40% of their hives, a disturbing trend that has been continuing. And although honey bees are not yet on the verge of becoming extinct, their swift decline could have a severe implication for us humans. Honey bees are pollinators of about one-third of the world's crops, and they're indirectly essential to our diets. Scientists are still working to determine the exact cause of the honeybees' demise, but it's likely results from a combination of pesticide exposure, disease carrying parasites and changes to weather and habitat caused by climate change. The microbe company, Seed, has set out to combat some of these threats with a disc-shaped probiotic called BioPatties in an attempt to make honeybees more resilient against pesticides and disease. BioPatties have shown early signs of reducing the effect of neonic insecticides. Seed recently partnered with the culinary collective Ghetto Gastro to host a breakfast featuring foods that might disappear if honey bees went extinct. That event demonstrated just how much we rely on bees for our meals, and it also gave a devastating glimpse of what will happen if too many bees die out. For instance, there would be no almonds, avocados, coffee, fruit or vegetables. However, efforts to reduce the world hives could save us from a future without our most beloved and nutritious foods. What grocers need to know is that this shortage of bees means we've got to truck bees to various parts of the country's growing regions and crop yields are not as great as they should be, which may result in some shortages unless we can reverse the trend and increase the honeybee population.

Phil Lempert:

Next, let's hear a bit about what Big Food is doing to help preserve our environment. Food companies turn to regenerative agriculture to meet sustainability goals. According to Nielsen, consumers are demanding sustainability, now more than ever. And companies like General Mills, Hormel, and Danone are aiming to provide this with regenerative agriculture. These companies are committing to a transition to regenerative agriculture practices that will capture carbon on thousands of acres of land. They also plan to devote significant finances to increasing the movement. General Mills is pledging $650,000 to Kiss the Ground, a nonprofit organization advocating for environmental practices in an attempt to educate farmers on making the land more resilient to inclement conditions, increasing profits and lowering costs with soil health methods. Danone has also allocated $6 million for regenerative agriculture and soil health research. Deanna Bratter, Senior Director of Public Benefit and Sustainable Development at Danone, North America says, "This movement around regenerative agriculture is one of the first big efforts to actually not just reduce the emissions we're creating, but to draw down emissions that already exist... as a company focused on sustainability, we're now implementing solutions to really transform the trajectory that we're on when it comes to climate change." What grocers need to know is that its time to do your fair share and help promote these brands to your shoppers, and tell them how these companies are part of the solution, not the problem.

Phil Lempert:

And now, it's time to head to the farm. Wayne Fredericks has been on the American Soybean Association Board of Directors since 2015. In that capacity, he represents ASA on the Monarch Collaborative. He served on the Iowa Soybean Association Board since 2008, and held positions as secretary, treasurer and president. He and his wife Ruth have farmed in Mitchell county just southwest of Osage since the mid 1970s. They raise soybeans and corn in a 50-50 rotation and have been long-time users of no-till and strip-till. Their passion is conservation and working to build a healthy, productive soil. The Fredericks' have spent many years working on trials with the ISA On Farm Network and with ISA Environmental Programs and Services to implement positive environmental practices on their farm. To them, it's about finding what productive, profitable, sustainable crop production practices work, while keeping soil, water, and air quality at the forefront. It is that balance that will help improve their competitiveness as Iowa producers. Farming near Osage in northwest Iowa, this year marks the 45th crop that Wayne Frederick's has planted on the 750 acres that he farms. While he's hopeful for great soybean and corn crops, he is especially proud of the seven acres of pollinator habitat that are sprinkled around his Mitchell county farm operation. The first five were planted in 2014, after he heard a presentation at an Iowa Soybean Association meeting before he became involved in the national effort to conserve the monarch butterfly. "The presenter encouraged us to overlay yield data and profitability on our land," he said, "which proved that some land would be more profitable in CRP than crops." He immediately found five areas where it would be a better fit than crops for the pollinator habitat. According to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, over the past 20 years, the monarch population has fallen by over 80%, mostly due to the loss of critical breeding habitat. Iowa is in the middle of the breeding range and one of the areas with the largest losses of habitat. Wayne, why is pollinator and monarch habitat so important to you?

Wayne F.:

Well, as you indicated in my introduction, economic issues first brought me to look at. We had done an economic analysis of our farmland using digital data, we saw an opportunity to improve our bottom line. And that's what first drove us toward that. But that was in 2014, and if we also look back at 2014, that was when the monarch population reached in historic low in its over-wintering measurement. Mexico and the Obama administration at that time put forth and all hands on deck effort to put habitat on CRP acres. So, we had kind of two things verging at one time; I could see an economic need that would benefit me as a farmer, but I was just beginning to learn and understand the plight of the monarch butterfly myself, just in looking through the process. And so, it kind of became important for more than one reason. And as we could improve our bottom line, we could achieve multiple benefits with the habitat, including water quality and accessibility and soil health and so forth. But we also felt that it was the right thing to do because we had a species that was in need of habitat. And so, we became more involved with that. And as I got involved with the Monarch Collaborative through ASA, I learned a much more about the dire need that the species was facing. So it became a personal effort of mine to increase habitat on my acres as well as bring the message to other farmers.

Phil Lempert:

So, explain to me if you would, the tools and the programs and the information that you use to establish and maintain this healthy habitat.

Phil Lempert:

Well, my number one person in my back pocket is my local Pheasants Forever biologist. This gentleman has worked with NRCS and has been a main tool in helping farmers establish pollinator habitat. He understands the federal programs better than even most of our local NRCS offices do. He understands the biology of the species, he understands the agronomy of the habitat, and he has just been a tremendous tool to help me decide what species to plant. He drew up my plans through the NRCS office. I've got him on speed dial, basically. If I have any questions regarding maintenance, or weeds, or burning programs and so forth, he's the first person I reach out to. And he's just been a tremendous asset. And then, when I got involved with the Monarch Collaborative, I ran into a network of other professionals that I've been able to network with that bring other perspectives, other ideas or thoughts, and that's been real valuable to me as well. So that's kind of been my source of information and has been real beneficial to me.

Phil Lempert:

Why is the work that the Monarch Collaborative is doing so critical for farming?

Wayne F.:

Well, I think it's an awareness. Farmers are unfortunately not as aware of this need as we would hope they would be. And then the collaborative being a group of ag organizations, agribusinesses, NGOs, and government agencies and educational agencies, it's a broad spectrum in the ag landscape of groups. And it's through this broad spectrum that we hope through our various channels and connections to bring the message to the farmer of the need to re-establish habitat on the landscape, and how critical and important this is, and how it should be one of their number one things that they should be concerned about the present time.

Phil Lempert:

At a time of low commodity prices and a very wet season, Wayne, what messages do you have for farmers who are struggling to make ends meet?

Wayne F.:

Well, not everything costs money. As I mentioned before, I saw an economic advantage of going to the CRP program. I lobbied heavily in this last farm bill to see more CRP acres brought into the Future of the Farm program. And we got some, we've got some more acres to work with. They're in the process of writing the rules right now and hopefully some of those are going to be designated for pollinator habitat. So, that opens that option up. It's a cost effective option for farmers. But today's planting time in Iowa, and there's a lot of simple things that we're doing here to benefit habitat. Number one. Most of us are runnin vacuum planters or seed planters, and we use a seed lubricant to make that seed flow better in the planters. And in the past, that's been commonly talc or talc-graphite combinations. And there's been some concern that some of the insecticide comes off with the seed and goes out in the air and these air planters through that talc and dust. I found a couple products that I've been using the last couple of years. One of them is Bayer's Fluency Agent. It's kind of a waxy type product that provides me the proper mechanics to work in the planter well, but has very low to no dust. A new one that just came out that I'm trying this year is called Dust, and it's actually made from soybeans. So, I'm really excited about that, especially since it's a product that farmers raised and can use. And it too has a very low dust off effect. So, that that helps keep the neonicocides out of the environment, which has been one of the concerns.

Wayne F.:

Next half, we get corn planted, a lot of us will jump on our four wheelers and we'll start spraying our field borders and road ditches for undesirable weeds. This is one thing that I've advocated especially on Facebook and Twitter the past two or three years is that, we don't have to blanket spray these non-crop acres. If we go in and spot spray just the hazardous weeds, undesirable weeds, and we leave the milkweed alone, they flourish. They take off and become real abundant and provide natural habitat without having to pay for any seeding cost or so forth. That's what the monarchs desire and need so bad, is more milkweed species. And I've had a lot of producers contact me on Twitter and say, "yeah, I saw your Tweet and we're doing the same thing." So, we're trying to get the message across that, spot spray, let's not broadcast spray everything, and try to gain habitat in that way. And then the next step is mowing. I really sit down and say, "is mowing really needed everywhere?" Our daughter and son-in-law, they live in Illinois now; we traveled down there, his farm family farms. And we get out in the country side and they got the most beautifully groomed and mowed roadways you ever saw. And you know, then you realize that a beautifully mowed stretch of road is a desert to monarch butterflies. There's no place, there's no food and there's no place to lay eggs, and it costs money and time and effort to mow those roadways. So, you know, it's something we can do for free and actually increase our bottom line, save time and labor, and we will see a lot of habitat come back. So yes, even now when the prices are such, there are things we can do to improve habitat on the landscape.

Phil Lempert:

Well, Wayne, thanks for all the work you're doing. It sounds fabulous. And thank you for joining us today on Farm, Food, Facts.

Wayne F.:

Well, I appreciate it Phil and I am always here to get the message out, and I wanted to advise all our listeners to, whenever they get the chance, go visit the Farmers for Monarchs website. We spent an extremely large amount of time building that website and we want that to be foremost place to go for any informationneeded for monarchs and habitat, on both the state and national basis. It's an outstanding website, and I encourage farmers and listeners to go there.

Phil Lempert:

And we will put a link up to that site as well.

Wayne F.:

Thanks. They'll appreciate it.

Phil Lempert:

And thank you for joining us right here on Farm, Food, Facts. For more information on all things food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit fooddialogues.com under the Programs and Media tab. Until next week.