HB 1293 – Issues and Solutions
The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance has been in discussions with its members and other beekeepers to identify the core concerns with HB 1293, and possible solutions to those concerns.
While everyone agrees that Chapter 131 needs to be revised, several of the provision of HB 1293 will create new problems or exacerbate existing ones.
Issue #1: Accountability. The CAI has broad powers, and HB 1293 expands those. Yet despite having essentially regulatory powers, the CAI is not a regulatory officer nor within the jurisdiction of a regulator agency. Decisions to define unwanted pests and disease, or to order a quarantine or destruction of hives, need review by experts and stakeholders. Even absent abuse, the current structure does not provide representation for the wide range of people affected by the bee industry.
- Recommendation #1a: Create a Honey Bee Advisory Board with 7-9 members, including representatives of large-scale commercial beekeepers, small-scale commercial beekeepers, hobby beekeepers, farming, wildlife, and academia. This board would meet at least annually to set TAIS policy and regulatory objectives and initiate rule-making, recommend or endorse specific TAIS actions in response to the detection of new pests or disease, and approve extraordinary actions (seize and destroy, order implementation of colony management practices, quarantine, etc.). The Board would thus set boundaries on the CAI’s discretion.
- Recommendation #1b: Expand appeal procedures to cover not just quarantines, but also other decisions or actions affecting property rights, such as seizure, destruction, or required treatment.
- Recommendation #1c: Direct the new Board to include consideration of the feral honey bee population, and the impact of that population on the probable efficacy of pest or disease control, eradication or mitigation measures.
- Recommendation #1e: Remove any provisions in HB 1293 that refer to the CAI determining what diseases or pests are subject to regulation of penalties. Change all references to “pests” or “diseases” to “reportable pests” or “reportable diseases” as designated by the new Board. If the new Board is not established in 2017 legislation, then the designations could be linked to USDA APHIS determinations.
Issue #2: Negative impact on small to medium scale operations: The ability of the CAI to require inspections, combined with the directive to recover costs, are likely to result in competitive disadvantage.
- Recommendation #2a: Establish a tiered or sliding scale structure for fees based on colony count or other equitable measure.
- Recommendation #2b: Retain the option to self-certify via affidavit.
Issue #3: The bill places all bees, both native and domestic, including bumble bees, under the authority of the CAI.
- Recommendation #3: Change the definition of bee so as not to extend authority to native bee species. (If no one believes that the CAI would declare native bees as unwanted, then there should be no objection to removing that power.)
Issue #4: Mandatory registration will not be acceptable to many people, and the requirement will lead to widespread noncompliance. In addition, to try to avoid impacting micro-beekeepers with the new mandatory requirement, the bill changed the provision for registration to 25 hives; but this could have an unintended impact on property tax valuation because many county appraisal districts have used the current apiary registration definition of 6 hives as a starting point for their guidelines.
- Recommendation #4: Remove the mandatory registration requirement and maintain the current definitions of apiary and beekeeper. A voluntary registration could be established that would allow notification of beekeepers when there is an issue of concern (disease, pests, or pesticide overspray) in their areas, providing benefits that would encourage registration.
Issue #5: The bill expands the failure of a beekeeper to report endemic diseases and pests in any colony that he is aware of, to be a Class C Misdemeanor. If read strictly, this requires reporting on fellow beekeepers. Whether the CAI enforces it this way or not, the possibility of it will discourage beekeepers, especially newcomers, from seeking help and advice from more experienced people.
- Recommendation #5: Clarify the language so as to require people to notify the CAI of reportable diseases in their own hives. Change the failure to do so to a civil penalty only.
Issue #6: The bill requires Texas queen and package bee suppliers to pay for certificate of inspection, though out-of-state bee suppliers have no such requirement.
- Recommendation #6: Remove the requirement of certificate of inspection for intrastate sales and delivery.
Issue #7: The regulations on “equipment” do not specify used equipment, yet there is no risk of spreading disease through new equipment.
- Recommendation #7: Amend the definition of “equipment” to “used equipment,” and then amend the requirements to apply to used equipment. Proposed definition: “’Used Beekeeping Equipment’ means hives, supers, frames, veils, gloves, tools, machines, vacuums, or other devices for the handling and manipulation of bees, honey, pollen, wax, or hives, including storage or transporting containers for pollen, honey, or wax or other apiary supplies used in the operation of an apiary or honey house and that have previously been used to contain, manipulate, transport, house or process colonies, hives, bees, bee colonies, bee products or their unpasteurized by products.”
In cooperation with: