The Washington State Legislature had a fractious year, with two special sessions required to get the budget ironed out. Spending and taxes were at the top of everyone’s agenda, for or against. There were very few tax exemptions enacted into law this year, but we beekeepers successfully made our case. Due to the work of WSBA President Mark Emrich and other dedicated beekeepers who took the time to go to Olympia and meet with legislators, and also legislators who learned to support our industry, the Business and Operating tax exemption that was enacted five years ago was extended for another four years, until July 1, 2017. Special thanks go to Representative Warnick and Senators Honeyford and Carlyle for sponsoring legislation and taking an interest that our honey bees’ issues be understood and addressed.
Rep. Warnick’s and Sen. Honeyford’s bills to extend the tax exemption were modified and eventually included in SB 5882, a much larger general bill creating or extending tax preferences. Rep. Warnick said, “I’m pleased we were able to get approval to extend this tax exemption in a year that was very hostile to tax exemptions. This is important to protecting a vital sector of agriculture and a work group will examine ways to better address colony collapse disorder.”
The intent of the legislation is “to extend the tax relief provided in the 2008 legislation, subject to a rigorous and periodic review of the health of honey bee colonies in Washington to determine whether colony collapse disorder is still a significant problem in the apiary industry.” Included in the law is a provision authorizing the Department of Agriculture to convene a honey bee work group, comprised of various members of the beekeeping industry and affected industries.
The honey bee work group is to prepare and submit a report to the legislature by December, 2014, addressing:
(a) proposed changes to the industry’s tax structure to increase competitiveness with out-of-state beekeepers for pollination contracts;
(b) providing analytics and metrics to measure the value of the proposed tax structure changes;
(c) proposed additional resources needed to continue applied and basic research to support commercial beekeepers in the state and to recover colony losses;
(d) identifying colony levels needed to meet the pollination demands of the Washington agricultural industry;
(e) identifying other policy changes that would increase the competitiveness of Washington beekeepers;
(f) other industry needs that would increase the market share of pollination contracts awarded to Washington beekeepers; and
(g) metrics needed to provide accountability for state resources invested in the honey bee industry.
These provisions to be examined by the honey bee work group are for long term improvement of the beekeeping industry in Washington. Current provisions that will help our industry now include a sales tax exemption from the sale of feed for bees and on the sale of bees and bee products at wholesale, and an exemption from B & O taxes on pollination services. All of these provisions expire on July 1, 2017. For details on these provisions, go to leg.wa.gov and search for bill number 5882.