Keep bees? Want to grow hemp? Speak up!

 

On March 29, the House Agriculture Committee is hearing four bee-related bills, four hemp bills, and the bill to establish a farmer and rural business ombudsman.

 

That’s a lot to think about, so let’s start with the good bills:

 

  • 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.

Then there’s the bad news on beekeeping regulation.
The bill on regulating beekeepers, HB 2670, has some good provisions, but the bad outweighs the good, so FARFA opposes the bill.

[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.
You can read more about these and other bee-related bills at http://farmandranchfreedom.org/bee-bills-2019/.

And the good, but we’re not sure which is best, hemp bills:

 

FARFA supports the legalization of hemp growing in Texas. Each of the hemp bills has some pros and cons, and we have not yet identified which one would be the best option. We encourage people who are interested in hemp to take a look at all four bills that will be heard on Monday —  HB 989HB 1230HB 1325HB 1657 —  and provide opinions to your Representative and the Committee members.

 

TAKE ACTION #1: Call Your State Representative

 

Call your State Representative to urge them to support or oppose the bills that matter to you. We recommend not trying to cover all the topics in one call —  it’s just too confusing. Focus on one subject at a time, whether that’s the beekeeping bills, the ombudsman bill, or the hemp bills. Then do another call tomorrow on the next topic, if there’s more than one that’s important to you.

 

To find who represents you, visit https://wrm.capitol.texas.gov/home or call the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630.

 

Sample message:

 

“My name is _____ and I live in [town]. I urge Representative _____ to oppose HB 2670 because the Texas Apiary Inspection Service should not be given new authority on what information beekeepers have to submit, nor to charge them a fee, for registration. And the bee import provisions would weaken the protections provided by the current import permit, putting Texas beekeepers at greater risk for disease introductions, just to make things easier for a few large migratory producers.

 

At the same time, I urge the Representative to support measures to protect bees and other pollinators, through HB 136 and HB 2484.”

 

(Or pick the bills you want to focus on, giving a short sentence or two as to your reasons on each.)

 

TAKE ACTION #2: Come to the hearing and check out if any of the Committee members represent you!

Testifying at a committee hearing is one of the most powerful ways to make your voice heard. That includes registering even without testifying!

 

If you can’t come in person, check out the list of committee members below. If you are a constituent of any of the Committee members, your call is even more important. Please be sure to contact them, and then urge your friends and neighbors in the district to contact representatives as well.

 

To register: You have to be physically present at the Capitol to register. Go to floor E1 or E2, and head to the kiosks on the side hallways to electronically register. The House Ag Committee re
gistration will open around 9:30 a.m. and should stay open until about 12:30 or later (depending on when the House adjourns).

 

You can see a video and more details on registering at  

https://mytxlegis.capitol.texas.gov//hwrspublic/about.aspx.

 

 

COMMITTEE: House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock
WHERE: Capitol Extension, Room E2.036
DATE: Monday, April 1, 2019
TIME: 10:30 a.m. or upon adjournment of the House. We can’t predict exactly when that will be, but it could be anytime from noon or later.
BILLS:
  • 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

 

For all of them, select “not testifying” unless you have a specific personal story that you want to share. If you do testify, keep it short (less than 3 minutes) and simple.

 


House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock:

 

Drew Springer (R), Chair, drew.springer@house.texas.gov, (512) 463-0526
Childress, Collingsworth, Cooke, Cottle, Crosby, Dickens, Fisher, Floyd, Garza, Hall, Hardeman, Haskell, Jack, Kent, King, Montague, Motley, Stonewall, Throckmorton, Wheeler, Wilbarger, Young Counties

 

Charles “Doc” Anderson (R), Vice Chair, charles.anderson@house.texas.gov, 512-463-0135
McLennan County, part

 

Michelle Beckley (D), michelle.beckley@house.texas.gov, 512-463-0478
Denton County, part

 

Brad Buckley (R), brad.buckley@house.texas.gov, 512-463-0684
Lampasas & Bell (part) Counties,

 

DeWayne Burns (R), dewayne.burns@house.texas.gov, 512-463-0538
Bosque and Johnson Counties

 

Arthur “Art” Fierro (D), art.fierro@house.texas.gov, 512-463-0596
El Paso County, part

 

Thresa “Terry” Meza (D), terry.meza@house.texas.gov, 512-463-0641
Dallas County, part

 

Richard Pena Raymond (D), richard.raymond@house.texas.gov, 512-463-0558
Webb County, Part

 

Erin Zwiener (D), erin.zwiener@house.texas.gov, 512-463-0647
Blanco and Hays Counties