Farmers and Monarchs: Perfect Together

monarch butterfly.jpg

A collaboration of Environmental Defense Fund and National Corn Growers Association

Over just the last two decades, the monarch population has declined by 90 percent, bringing the butterfly dangerously close to extinction. Many factors contributed to this loss, including climate change, deforestation, and habitat loss across the United States, particularly in the Midwest.

Monarchs depend on milkweed for survival. It is where they lay their eggs and where caterpillars first hatch and feed. Without it, monarchs simply cannot survive.

To save the monarch, we need about 2.5 million acres of habitat across the Midwest, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Farmers manage much of this region, making them among the most important partners to help restore and enhance this vital habitat.

Helping farmers help monarchs

Creating habitat for monarchs is much easier than many think. Unlike many other species, monarchs can thrive with small plots of habitat scattered across the landscape – an acre or less even.

This means farmers can make a huge difference planting monarch habitat in a less productive corner of a farm, or adding milkweed and nectar plants to an existing buffer or other land not currently in production.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is working with the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and other grower groups and partners to support farmers interested in creating habitat to save the monarch. The goal is to give farmers interested in developing monarch habitat access to the information, tools and resources they need to do so in ways that are as simple and easy as possible.

Resources available for farmers

EDF and NCGA are ready to help farmers join the effort to save the monarch in ways that fit into their farming operations. This help includes technical assistance, implementation support and communications opportunities.

Technical assistance includes:

  • A farm assessment that identifies existing habitat on the site and the potential for monarch habitat restoration and enhancement within the context of the operation.

  • Help from an expert to develop a monarch habitat plan that fits with farmer’s needs and interests. The plan describes all of the activities involved in creating or enhancing habitat (e.g., site preparation, seed planting, ongoing management), as well as a timeline and budget.

Implementation support includes:

  • Connections to financial and additional resources. Based on the habitat plan, we can help the farmer estimate the costs of habitat creation or enhancement and adapt the plan based on estimated costs and available resources to find the sweet spot for the farmer.

Communications opportunities include:

  • Collaboration with communications professionals to help farmers tell their monarch stories and spotlight their successes. We can help farmers tell these stories through blogs, speaking opportunities, sharing success stories via newsletters and webpages, and media outreach.

  • Connections with other farmers working to create or enhance monarch habitat to share lessons learned and hear from other farmers. This is a powerful way to spread ideas, share information and support, and find the ways that work. We plan to create an online discussion space for farmers to make these connections, collaborate and see the bigger picture of helping save the monarch one farm at a time.

Learn more or participate

For more information or if you are interested in participating, contact Nathan Fields of NCGA at fields@ncga.com or Suzy Friedman of EDF at sfriedman@edf.org.

About the EDF-NCGA partnership

In 2018, EDF and NCGA launched a first-of-its-kind partnership between an environmental organization and commodity crop association. The partnership aims to address one of the most pressing challenges for today’s farmers, rural communities and natural resources – how to improve environmental outcomes while optimizing productivity and profitability.

The partnership will elevate the importance of continuous improvements for water quality and climate resilience, while strengthening yields and profitability. Priority work streams include:

  • Data and measurement to improve tracking of water quality, soil health and greenhouse gas emissions, and scale user-friendly technology solutions for data reporting and analysis.

  • On-farm engagement to increase farmer and agronomist knowledge about innovative conservation tools and practices.

  • Policy advocacy to support voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs with measurable environmental outcomes.

  • Finance and economics to explore and grow opportunities for farmers to benefit economically from conservation practices such as cover crops and conservation tillage.

  • Outreach and communications to build bridges between farmers and consumers