- The Ombudsman bill, HB 3115, is an important step forward for local food producers. Check out our fact sheet about why small farmers need this help.The Senate version of the bill had a positive hearing last Monday, and we’re excited that the House version is moving ahead also.
- HB 2484 would establish a Bee Pollinator Goals Task Force, drawn from state agency officials, to develop statewide bee pollinator goals and metrics, and to report on the state’s progress on a biennial basis. These concrete measurements would help future attempts to promote pollinator health.
- HB 136 directs Texas Agrilife Extension to develop educational material for pesticide applicator training that includes the impacts of pesticides on bees and other pollinators. It also forms a task force with individuals drawn from government, academia, and advocacy organizations, to study the measures taken by other states for pollinator protection. The task force is also directed to study “best management practices” for the “neonics” class of pesticides. FARFA has recommended adding more beekeepers to the task force and studying best practices for all types of agricultural chemicals; our recommended changes would improve the bill, but we also support it as filed.
- HB 2483 would ban the use of neonics in public road right-of-ways. This is largely a symbolic bill, since the Texas Department of Transportation doesn’t currently use neonics on right-of-ways. But it’s still a positive preventive measure and sets a precedent for future steps to address the threat neonics pose to pollinators.
[UPDATE: The hearing took place, and you can you can read FARFA Executive Director Judith McGeary’s testimony here.]
- The good: The bill repeals the intrastate permit (for moving hives within the state) and the export permit (for moving hives out of Texas). These permits serve no real disease control purpose and simply impose paperwork and fee burdens.
- The bad: Currently, people can register their apiary (a location with six or more hives) for free. HB 2670 would convert this to registration of individual beekeepers, broadly defined as anyone who “owns, leases, possesses, controls, or manages” even one hive for any purpose — and impose a fee. This is designed to generate money for the Texas Apiary Inspection Service (TAIS), allegedly to make up for the funds the agency will lose by abolishing the intrastate permit. Yet abolishing the intrastate permit would have no fiscal impact because TAIS would also be relieved of spending the money to manage the intrastate permit program. So, what are the registration fees needed for?While the registration is voluntary on its face, some people have to register their apiary in order to qualify for agricultural valuation — and now they’d be forced to pay whatever fee TAIS chooses to set.
And it appears that this is really about laying the groundwork for mandatory registration of all beekeepers. Mandatory registration was proposed and pushed last session in HB 1293 by the same group that is now pushing this bill. Notably, the proposed definition of “beekeeper” in HB 2670 is the same as last session’s HB 1293, as are the substantive provisions for what is included in the registration, when it lapses, and the associated fees. Just one word would need to be changed to make it mandatory — and more than one witness on the Senate version of this bill urged mandatory registration for all beekeepers.TAIS is unique among regulatory agencies in the lack of oversight — it is not subject to Sunset Review or any of the other normal mechanisms that provide transparency and accountability of agencies. Without some mechanism for holding the agency accountable, we oppose giving the agency authority to impose fees or specify what information beekeepers need to provide to register. (Currently, for apiary registration, the required information is specified in statute.)
- The confusing & potentially dangerous: The bill converts the import permit, which requires an inspection before bee hives can be brought into Texas, into an “interstate permit,” which allows hives to be brought into Texas if they have been inspected by TAIS anytime within the last 12 months. This provision doesn’t make sense. If there is a disease transmission risk, then a year-old inspection after the bees have been transported all over the country does nothing to prevent the introduction of disease into Texas. And if there is no real disease transmission risk, then no permit should be required. A more logical approach would be to analyze the potential disease risks in an interim study, and then either continue the current import permit or abolish it entirely.
TAKE ACTION #1: Call Your State Representative
TAKE ACTION #2: Come to the hearing and check out if any of the Committee members represent you!
- HB 2670 by Guillen: AGAINST
- HB 2383 by Farrar: FOR
- HB 2484 by Farrar: FOR
- HB 3115 by Zwiener: FOR
- HB 136 by Gonzalez: FOR
House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock: