HB1293 Opponents Deliver a List of Issues and Solutions to Bill Sponsor’s Office

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:
Bruce Bonnett
Ryan Giesecke
Dennis Gray
Tanya Phillips
Chuck Reburn

9 thoughts on “HB1293 Opponents Deliver a List of Issues and Solutions to Bill Sponsor’s Office”

  1. Overall–These recommendations take more into account the bees and less on the beeks.
    Simplified language also helps.
    #4–I do not believe however about the mandatory registration causing “widespread noncompliance and this issue should be judged on other states issues and their noncompliant beeks and what has happened. Free web based registration yearly will make it easier and more likely for beeks to comply.
    1 colony creates an apiary. Not 6, 25, or thousands. Simple that if you manage 1 colony than that should be considered an Apiary.
    1c—Feral bees are just that.
    Once a beek touches a feral colony they then become managed.
    #6– I want to know regardless how healthy bees I am acquiring to be inspected and permitted. Inspection/fees could be applied at time of sale. Not to the seller.

    1. Hey Mike,
      Thanks for reaching out.

      #6. I suggest everyone call and ask TAIS what their inspection procedure is. The current implementation of hive health certification by a Texas Apiary Inspector hardly gives a person assurances the hive he purchased is healthy. HB1293 does not improve that. The TAIS samples only a few hives out of hundreds at an apiary. And then only up to maximum of 5 apiary sites for any one supplier even if the supplier has 50 apiaries. TAIS would need to increase the number of inspectors from 3 to 150 in order to give you the assurance you want regarding the state of the hive you buy. The concern is, inspection charges will skyrocket. Instead of paying $170 for each nuc, we might be looking at paying $600 per nuc.

      I understand your frustration about the definition of an apiary.
      There is the definition Webster’s Dictionary gives and there is what the law defines. As in many matters the law & Webster’s don’t agree. A judge will give weight to what the law says. For many many years now, the legal definition of Apiary is 6. The reference to 25 hives is not an apiary definition. It is the number of hives owned by a beekeeper that HB1293 requires mandatory registration.

  2. I’ve been concerned that we need an alternative proposal instead of asking our representatives to just vote “no”. The good folks at FARFA provided some options for our legislators to consider. Well done!

  3. We agree with the issues addressed above.

    As a small scale hobbyists, we live on a 3-acre homestead property and currently not managing/or planning to do more than 6 hives for personal use. The amended HB1293 SECTION 1 is not only unnecessary but invasive to the fourth amendment US constitution ‘rights to privacy.’ Even though our situation falls under voluntary registration in the revised HB1293, the problem is the power of authority that is granted through the amended HB1293 SECTION 1 allowing state apiary regulator to enter property without owner’s permission, notification, and evidence of probable cause/due process.

    When precautionary principle under preventative, for the concern of spreading of disease(s) and public safety, is applied to all levels of operation regardless to the hive volume or size of operation, the small guys like us end up getting the short end of the stick with greater negative impact than large scale beekeepers (i.e no Ag exemption, no Ag insurance, no tax exemption, and less resources, time and capital to deal with the bureaucratic proceedings).

    Why is HB1293 redefining ‘Apiary’ to take out the current ‘limit’? Is there a published/proven record of ‘risk based’ data concluding that small scale hobbyists with less than 6 hives show ‘significant’ contribution to the spread of diseases/safety to the public that’s equivalent to or greater than large scale beekeepers?

    1. bunypaulet,
      These are all good questions and points.
      Those are the some of the reasons why the contributing editors to this site oppose HB1293 as introduced.

      Answers to you questions can only be given by those of the Texas Beekeepers Association that proposed what became HB1293.
      They can be reached by either sending an e-mail to 131questions@texasbeekeepers.org or posting your question on Texas Beekeepers Association webpage: http://texasbeekeepers.org/contact/

  4. I am a small hobbyist beekeeper – I currently have two hives, both located at my principal residence. I don’t raise queens for sale or have any plans to sell honey or wax or other products. My concern is with the vague regulations in this bill. I am part of a (hopefully) growing number of beekeepers trying to fight varroa without chemical intervention, but through using survivor queens who have been selected and bred for hygienic resistance. There are few commercial sources of queens that fit this model. I worry that the wording of this bill will allow the inspector to require quarantine of in-state colonies that have some varroa because the apiary is trying to develop resistant bees, or require miticide treatments that will only perpetuate the varroa problem. I also am concerned that I will not be allowed to order a single survivor queen from an out-of-state apiary that shares this vision, unless I obtain a permit to do so…

    In addition, I would like to see a change in language that specifically allows topbar hives. “Movable frames” could be very strictly interpreted. Before buying my first colony, I called the Inspector, whoever he was at that time, and he told me that the law requires that he has to be able to manipulate and turn the frame to inspect it. He did not sound very encouraging about whether a frameless top bar meets that requirement, as the comb cannot be held parallel to the ground.

    Overall, while I know the bill is about regulation of the beekeeping industry, it does seem to give too much power and discretion to allow the CAI to have a philosophy that will perpetuate the traditional (Lang with foundation and constant chemical treatment) status quo, and discourage experimentation to develop honeybees that can survive without such intervention.

    1. Kevin,
      Activity made towards amending can be seen at post of http://www.savetexasbeekeepers.org/2017/03/08/first-steps-towards-amending-1293/
      Regarding movable frames, topbar hives are allowed in the verbiage 131.021 (b) (1) “….or stored so as to prevent the possible spread of disease;”
      If you have further concerns about topbars, call Mary Reed at TAIS and tell her Bruce sent you.
      Further concerns for explicit inclusion would have to wait on a proposal targeting the 2019 Texas Legislature Session.

      Regards,
      Bruce

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