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.