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Washington State Beekeepers Association

Keeping the Bee in Business

April Legislative Update by Tim Hiatt

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Everyone who called/emailed/signed in/spoke in committee should be commended for your efforts. Thank you all very much! Thanks also to Tim Johnson, our legislative advisor and a fellow beekeeper. We have pushed the apiary registration idea out of the implementation section of SB 5253 and is instead to be considered again by the renewed pollinator health task force. This means that those who are passionate about bees and pollinators generally should be involved this summer when the task force convenes. Contact me to be on the list. SB 5253 now goes to the House Appropriations committee, then Rules, then to the House floor for a vote. Upon passing, it will be sent to the Senate for Concurrence, then on to the Governor.

When we work as a grassroots unit, we can defeat better funded and experienced interests. The pesticide industry, specifically the pesticide companies and the pesticide applicators, really wanted this apiary location registry. The growers and the rest of agriculture were neutral on this issue. The proposal was wanted not to protect pollinators’ health, but to protect pesticide applicators and users from liability for killing bees. When this is brought up again in the task force, we will be better informed.

In Oregon, beekeepers and agriculture met to discuss this very issue and decided against implementing it. A large part of the reason was that beekeepers demanded a pesticide use registry as only being fair if an apiary location registry were to be started. A pesticide use registry would require pesticide users to report to a central, publicly accessible database each use of every chemical: date, time, formulation, rate per acre, method of application, and more. In Oregon, a complementary system of apiary location and pesticide use registration was considered and stakeholders decided it was not worth the benefits. Such an argument could easily be made in Washington as well.

Sometimes we push for what we want in the legislative process, like passing a bill granting liability protections for beekeepers. Sometimes we defend ourselves from bad proposals, like this year’s struggle to avoid a potentially damaging and reckless idea, burdening beekeepers and exposing us to all kinds of bad results. This year was the latter.

Nevertheless, we can use the coming task force to advocate for positive things for bees and beekeepers. Get involved if you have ideas or want to strengthen the voices of those of us already involved. And again, I thank you all for defeating this bad proposal and keeping bees front and center of the minds of our legislators.


– Tim Hiatt