Help Us Improve Texas Beekeeping Regulations

 

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) is a national organization that supports independent family farmers and protects a healthy and productive food supply for American consumers. FARFA promotes common sense policies for local & diversified agricultural systems, and is an advocate for independent farmers, ranchers, livestock owners, and homesteaders, as well as the consumers who support them. By protecting independent producers, we protect the safety, quality, and availability of our food.

FARFA has created a survey to help understand what is important to beekeepers in order to propose better beekeeping regulations in the State of Texas.

Below is a post from FARFA used with permission.

Please take the time to read and participate in the survey.

MAKE YOUR OPINION KNOWN!!

 


Did you know that Texas’ beekeeping regulations have not been significantly changed in more than six decades?

Over the past year, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance has been working with Texas beekeepers who requested our assistance to update those regulations.

Because of the essential role bees play in making sure we have fresh, nutritious foods, this is an issue not only for beekeepers, but for farmers and consumers.

With the assistance of a number of beekeepers, we created a survey to gather information that will help us draft proposed changes to existing regulations. While the survey is primarily designed for beekeepers, it includes a shorter section for anyone who is concerned about protecting bees.

 

Please take this important survey today!

 

Whether or not you fall into the category of beekeeper or “bee supporter,” we encourage you to share this email with others so they can participate. Getting as much data as possible, particularly from beekeepers, will help us draft recommendations that are of the greatest benefit possible.



info@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org | www.FarmAndRanchFreedom.org

Communicating with Local Clubs about 1293

Monday evening, March 13th, I gave a presentation on HB 1293 to members of Metro Beekeepers Association in Fort Worth. In an effort to become well informed on the pros & cons of HB 1293, Metro had scheduled for Texas Beekeepers Association Area Director Roger Farr to present TBA’s case in support and for me to speak about Save Texas Beekeepers’ opposition. Unfortunately, I was the only speaker to actually attend.

A little background… Mr. Farr was chair of the TBA committee that wrote and submitted the proposals to the Texas Legislature that became HB 1293. In early February, just after bill introduction, I approached Mr. Farr with concerns about certain aspects of the bill and asked how we could work to address those concerns.  Although he admitted the bill might not be perfect, his response was that amendments were not an option; he told me I would have to either support it or oppose it as written.

In mid February, at the TBA winter “delegates” meeting at the Texas A&M Honey Bee Lab in Bryan, an attempt was again made to address concerns about HB 1293.  During that meeting Mr. Farr tried to dispel opposition by presenting a notable speech in which he seemed to draw parallels between the conflict over this bill and Cain and Abel, slavery, and WWII-era Europe. Needless to say, I was prepared for an interesting dialogue presenting back-to-back with Mr. Farr in Fort Worth.  Of course, life being life, what happened was the one thing I wasn’t prepared for at all.  TBA’s representative surprised us all by simply not showing up.

Keep in mind that Metro Beekeepers is a local club that is a member organization with TBA, with many members who are individual members of TBA as well. This was a room full of beekeepers wanting, expecting, and deserving an explanation from TBA about what has been done representing “all Texas beekeepers and local beekeeping associations,” according to the claim on the front of the TBA website.

As the only speaker on the topic that night I tried to present a balanced and factual picture of the situation. I am strongly opposed to HB 1293 as filed, but I’ve been a proud and enthusiastic member of TBA until this issue. I believe TBA is made up of good individuals who care about Texas beekeeping, and I said as much during my presentation.  As a TBA member I was put in the awkward position of attempting to reconcile what I believe are good intentions with a very unfortunate scenario, because underneath it all, the facts just don’t look good: TBA claims to represent all beekeepers in Texas, but the association hasn’t been communicating well even with its own members. TBA says it wants to do better at communicating with members, but Monday’s no-show was not at all indicative of that. I like and respect the TBA board, but that doesn’t help me understand or explain how this is being handled by the organization.

Judging from the responses on savetexasbeekeepers.org and social media sites, it seems many Texas beekeepers feel this way. People are not happy with the situation, and I understand why.  Conversing with attendees at Metro after my presentation was eye-opening. One member told me that he feels betrayed by TBA. One was asking for the names of the individuals on the TBA committee, saying that someone should have to answer for HB 1293. One man kept apologizing for getting passionate in discussion with me, saying that he had come prepared to vent at someone from TBA and that it was hard to adjust to there not being a TBA representative in attendance.

At one point I was very hopeful about communicative effort towards productive amendments.  At this time, those efforts are not proceeding as quickly or as cooperatively as we were led to expect.  Though I haven’t given up hope, I am feeling discouraged, disheartened, and disappointed.

I’ve given presentations on HB 1293 at several local beekeeping clubs now.  If your association would like a presentation from us on the topic please let us know.

First Steps Towards Amending 1293

On Monday the sponsors of this site met with Chairman King’s staff, Judith McGeary of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, board members of the Texas Beekeepers Association, and other concerned beekeepers at the Capitol and worked on a proposal to amend House Bill 1293. We had a constructive meeting and reached an agreement, in principle, on amendments that address the major issues that led to our opposition of this bill.

We are still working to turn Monday’s consensus into actual amendment language that everyone can agree on, and we can’t say anything especially decisive at the moment. We are still opposed to the bill as it is currently filed, but we have hopes that it can be amended in such a way that we can support it as a positive step forwards.

I want to specifically thank Judith from the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance for her help in this matter; FARFA is a great organization that is having a positive impact and could use your support. They are working on some other bills this session that are likely to matter to beekeepers, and we hope to have some more info for you soon on these issues. I also want to say that I very much appreciate the TBA board members who are working with us on amendments… we’ve had some differences in opinion on this bill, but I do believe these people are doing their best to improve the situation for beekeepers in our state, and I do appreciate them for that.

If you are reading this and are not yet signed up for updates from this blog please consider subscribing so that we can keep you up to date as things progress. We will need to take additional action to support or oppose the wording of amendments once they are filed, and we appreciate your help.

More Fallacies in Support of 1293

Texas Beekeepers Association released a new wave of information and disinformation in support of HB 1293 today. I don’t think we can even assume it’s all honest ignorance anymore… the fallacies just keep coming. They continue to post “facts” that we’ve pointed out to them are not factual, and we even see them contradicting themselves from one page to the next in the name of selling us on HB1293. So let’s take a closer look.

#1) First off, they are sticking to their guns on the idea that Chapter 131 was last updated in 1983. They have it in an extra-large font this time… “Existing Bee Laws… last updated in 1983“, they claim. As noted in the “Myths” post below, this is easily disproven by reading the current Chapter 131, which shows amendments in 1984, 1985, 1989, 1991, 1997, and most recently in 2011. You would expect them to at least resort to pointing out that these were minor changes… they were. I’ve been pointing out the inaccuracy of this statement to them for weeks now. But instead we see them pushing the fallacy and counting on their members not to read the law. By all means… READ THE LAW. READ THE BILL.
Remember, if you read the version provided on the TAIS site it will not show the most recent amendment. TBA is still sending people to the 1997 version as well; I suppose this helps push the “look how out of date it is” argument. The link on the main page of this site will lead you to the actual current version. (edit: the links to the outdated 131 on the TAIS site have since been removed and replaced in response to this posting)

#2) TBA’s own information on the current 131 says “A person may not sell or offer for sale a queen bee and attendant bees, package bees, nuclei, or queen cells in Texas unless the bees are accompanied by a certificate from the Chief Apiary Inspector stating that the apiary is free of disease, or an affidavit made by the beekeeper that the bees are not diseased.”
Yet when they are trying to sell us on HB 1293 (here), they say “Sellers of fewer than 25 queen bees, packages, colonies, or nuclei, collectively in a year, or those who sell fewer than 100 queen cells, would no longer be required to have a certificate of inspection or pay associated fees.” Strange, since we all know that we are not currently required to have a certificate of inspection to sell bees.

#3) They also say (here) “The permits required for both intra- and inter-state movement will be simplified”… which is confusing… I can’t imagine this is deliberately misleading; it’s just written as carelessly as the bill itself. Section 131.043, permits for intra-state movements, is repealed under HB 1293. This is one of the few things I like about the bill. But it could not be more clear that we cannot count on TBA to write what they mean to write or understand what they’ve written.
They also take this chance to point out that if you’re a migratory hobbyist the new bill helps you out. This is mostly laughable, though I suppose some people do move to a new state and take a backyard hive with them.

#4) They originally claimed here that there were 60 TBA members involved in writing this bill. The email I got today claims 30 TBA members were involved in writing this bill. Then the link provided in that email takes me here, where they now claim that “more than 60” people were involved. Any of the above is a tiny number of beekeepers to represent our entire state, but I’m curious… how many people actually contributed to writing this bill? Are there actually even 30 people who will claim responsibility for this thing? Who are they?

The new TBA FAQ also reiterates a lot of other things we have addressed as false in previous posts here; we have specifically informed them of these fallacies, but they continue to try to use them to persuade people to support their pet bill. They still refuse to admit that Apis mellifera capensis is a subspecies rather than a species. They still refuse to read their bill with a legalistic mindset instead of telling us what they mean for it to say, so they still refuse to see the issue with saying “pests” when you mean “reportable pests”. If you haven’t read them yet, be sure to take a look at “Myths Being Used To Support HB1293” and “Some Problems With 1293“.

Myths Being Used To Support HB1293

Some of the myths being used to promote HB1293:
#1) “Chapter 131 hasn’t been updated since 1983.”
FALSE.
The current chapter 131 shows numerous amendments since 1983. By all means go look. Amendment years include 1984, 1985, 1989, 1991, 1997, & 2011.  Part of the confusion on this is that the TAIS website supplies an outdated version of 131 that leads you to believe the bill hasn’t been updated since 1997. (edit: the links to outdated 131 have since been rectified in response to objections)

#2) “Treatments may only be mandated in the case of a quarantine, which may only be declared after TAIS has done “due diligence” in identifying and understanding the problem.”
FALSE.
Treatments may be required as the Chief Apiary Inspector deems “necessary” for the public welfare. Bees, honey, equipment, and more may be treated, seized, or destroyed at the Chief Apiary Inspector’s discretion.

#3) “’Unwanted species of bees’ is intended to target the South African Cape Bee. We all keep Apis mellifera mellifera. These are two very different species of bee.”
FALSE.
We all keep the species Apis mellifera (Western Honey Bees), but it is totally inaccurate to claim that we all keep subspecies Apis mellifera mellifera (it is not even a very commonly kept race/subspecies in the USA). Most Texas stock is mutt races consisting of Apis mellifera ligustica, Buckfast, Russians, Apis mellifera scutellata, and more. The “South African Cape Bee” is Apis mellifera capensis… species Apis mellifera. Not really all that different from the bees we keep, though undesirable due to their tendency to invade other hives. The Cape Bee is not present in the US. Listing the Cape Bee by species as an unwanted species of bee would require listing Apis mellifera as unwanted, which of course is impossible. HB1293 as written does not allow for listing subspecies/races of bee as undesirable. What is the real goal of the bill in this regard? Why does it specifically allow for “non-Apis” species to be listed as unwanted if the intent was to list an Apis mellifera subspecies? This is either horribly written with a very poor understanding of taxonomy, or it is a blatant untruth to conceal another agenda.

#4) “HB 1293 is the result of a grassroots movement in Texas beekeeping to revamp outdated regulations.”
FALSE.
HB 1293 is the result of a small committee formed by Texas Beekeepers Association. Local beekeeping associations around the state were not notified. Participation was limited to people who attended TBA Fall Convention 2015. Meetings were in Bryan/College Station, and were announced last minute, so even many of the people who had signed up to participate were unable to attend. All information pertaining to details of HB 1293 was deliberately kept behind closed doors until after the bill was already filed. Even then no notification was provided to the public by the committee or the Texas Beekeepers Association until the complaints started to pour in responding to the publicly filed bill. This is a bill written privately behind closed doors by a very small subsection of Texas beekeepers.

#5) “The limit for exemption from the requirement for registration of hives is being updated from 6 to 25.”
FALSE.
The current 131 defines an apiary as 6 or more hives, but does not require registration of apiaries.  It allows for optional registration for free.  HB 1293 mandates annual registration for any beekeeper with 25 hives or more and establishes fees for said annual registration.