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Future of $20 billion in ag food production focus of pollinator forum

Agriculture and conservation leaders to gather in support of native pollinator populations

National agriculture and conservation leaders are gathering in February to explore ways to stabilize and enhance threatened native pollinator populations that contribute to a $20 billion fruit, nut, vegetable and field crop production industry in the United States.

The Native Pollinators in Agriculture Work Group, a panel of more than 30 growers, academics, government officials and conservationists, is hosting the first National Agriculture Pollinator Forum Feb. 24 to 25 in Arlington, Va., to address the need to boost native bees, insects, birds and animal populations that are vital to production agriculture.

The emergence of Colony Collapse Disorder among managed bees puts a greater importance on the role of the "free" pollination services provided by native pollinators. These native bees, insects, birds and animals supplement the pollination services provided by managed bees to maintain farm productivity and profitability. The Work Group estimates that 15 percent of the combined value of U.S fruit, nut, vegetable and field crop production can be attributed to pollination services provided by native insects and animals.

Make plans now to cover the Native Pollinators in Agriculture forum, which will be held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City immediately prior to the 2009 USDA Agriculture Outlook Conference. The forum will detail steps the agriculture community can take to capitalize on the services provided by native pollinators. Program highlights include:

--Native pollinator pollination services;

--Latest developments on Colony Collapse Disorder;

--Habitat establishment and proper pesticide use;

--Grower perspectives on how pollinator protection practices have helped their bottom line;

--Projects growers can put on the ground to enhance native pollinator populations; and

--The launch of a national agriculture pollinator alliance.

For the preliminary forum program, for more information about registration and the hotel, and for more about the Work Group, go to www.agpollinators.org.

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