After being suspended in December of 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture “Cost of Pollination” survey has now been reinstated. For producers that regularly need to rent bees, it probably comes as no surprise that pollination costs have skyrocketed over the last few years, with prices up well more than +30% in many cases. In total, farmers paid $440.7 million for pollinator services in 2022, compared to roughly $320 million in 2017, or nearly +38%.
Managed honey bees are the most valuable pollinators in terms of agricultural economics, and many crops are highly dependent on their services. Almonds, for example, are almost entirely dependent upon honey bee pollination. Without honey bees, the harvest of blueberries, squash, watermelon, and other fruits would also be greatly reduced. According to the USDA, one colony of honey bees is worth 100 times more to the community than to the beekeeper — meaning the value they deliver extends well beyond their actual price.
The “Cost of Pollination” report, published on January 11, includes data for 2017 and 2022, detailing paid pollinated acres, price per acre, colonies used, price per colony, and total value of pollination per crop. The report shows pollination costs of 33 specific crops. Only 19 of these crops were listed individually on the questionnaire sent to producers but USDA allowed additional crops to be reported.
USDA divides the states into 7 distinct regions:
Region 1: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin.
Region 2: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia.
Region 3: Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas.
Region 4: Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming.
Region 5: Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington
Regions 6 & 7 are combined: Arizona, California, and Hawaii
The biggest pollination expenses by far in 2022 were racked up by almond farmers at a total value of $364.7 million, accounting for nearly 83% of total US pollination costs. That is up from a share of 80% in 2017. Between 2017 and 2022, the average cost per colony for almonds increased over +13% in regions 6 & 7 (includes California) while the average price per acre climbed more than +23%. The total value of pollination in regions 6 & 7 was $386.8 million, up from $272.7 million in 2017.
On a per colony basis, blueberries in region 2 saw one of the more substantial increases between 2017 and 2022 at +40% , while the price per acre increased +42%. Blueberries are also a top crop in region 1, where prices per colony were up +27%, and also up +42% per acre. Farmer costs for pollination of all crops in region 1 and 2 climbed +33% and +10%, respectively, from 2017.
One notable decline occurred in region 4, with the total value of pollination for all crops falling to $114,000 in 2022 from $628,000 in 2017. This is a direct result of a decline in paid pollinated acres from 7,350 in 2017 to 4,610 in 2022. Actual costs did increase with price per colony climbing +6% and price per acre up +22%.
For reference, the 19 sampled crops listed on the questionnaire were: alfalfa, almonds, apples, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, clover, cranberries, cucumber, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, pumpkins, raspberries, squash, strawberries, sunflowers, and watermelons. The 14 remaining crops that were sampled, but not listed individually on the questionnaire were: apricots, avocados, boysenberries, buckwheat, canola, grapes, honeydew melons, kiwifruit, plums, prunes, macadamia nuts, mangos, tomatoes, and turnips. The full report is HERE.