East Hawaii News

‘Pollinator Week’ Designated; Beekeeping Bill Signed

June 17, 2013, 5:54 PM HST
* Updated June 17, 5:56 PM
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This week is “National Pollinator Week,” dedicated to those animals which help pollinate most of our flowering plants and nearly three-quarters of our nation’s crops.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie today seconded that, naming June 17 through June 23 “Hawaii Pollinator Week.”

Today he also signed Senate Bill 482, which is designed to boost the state’s beekeeping efforts, and, indirectly, its agriculture industry.

The measure, which was co-sponsored by 19 of the Senate’s 25 members, exempts most home-based honey producers from having to use a certified kitchen or “honey house” for the processing of their product.

To qualify for the exemption, beekeepers must sell fewer than 500 gallons of honey a year and must sell either directly to consumers or to a retail outlet which does.

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They must also attend a Department of Health food safety workshop and comply with labeling requirements that note that the honey has not been inspected by the DOH.

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State law previously exempted only those selling less than 50 gallons of honey per year.

“This low limit disables most small beekeepers from selling their honey crop in compliance with state regulations,” the state Department of Agriculture said in testimony submitted to the Senate. “A higher allowance is desirable to encourage sustainable beekeeping and industry growth.”

This poster from the US Fish and Wildlife Service notes that pollinators come in many forms.

This poster from the US Fish and Wildlife Service notes that pollinators come in many forms.

Maintaining or expanding commercial beekeeping operations is particularly important because of the impacts on feral hives from the varroa mite, small hive beetle and other pests, officials said.

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The DOA testimony put the value of bee-pollinated crops in Hawaii at nearly $213 million annually.

Testimony on the bill was mixed.

Anthony Maxfield, president of the Hawaii Beekeepers Association, urged senators to kill the bill, saying it could be “an inducement to import cheap honey from outside the state in order to capitalize on the reputation of our local honeys as being the best in the world.”

He said it could also prompt an increase in inexperienced beekeepers who may not properly manage their hives that could result in the further spread of pests and disease.

However, the bill had the support of the Big Island Beekeepers Association, which said most small-scale beekeepers were hampered by the 50-gallon limit.

“Increasing the limit to 500 gallons is much more in line with the production capability of the average small-scale or home beekeeper,” the group said.

The group agreed with the bill’s description of honey as an antibiotic and antibacterial natural substance.

“Legislative changes proposed by SB 482 will help our honey farmers without jeopardizing health and safety of the consumer in any way,” its testimony said. “A certified kitchen is not necessary for the hygienic production of honey.

“Further, the increased labeling requirements of SB 482 will give consumers the knowledge necessary to make their own healthy choices regarding the purchase of our natural, Hawaiian artisanal honey.”

In support of National Pollinator Week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service noted that flowering plants and crops are dependent on a wide variety of assistance.

“Often we may not notice the hummingbirds, bats, bees, beetles, butterflies, and flies that carry pollen from one plant to another as they collect nectar,” the agency’s website said.

“Yet without them, wildlife would have fewer nutritious berries and seeds, and we would miss many fruits, vegetables, and nuts, like blueberries, squash, and almonds . . . not to mention chocolate and coffee … all of which depend on pollinators.”

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