Bee Proactive: Help Strengthen the ABF's Voice in Washington
Invest in the Future of the Beekeeping Industry and Your Business
By this time you are well into your 2012 beekeeping year. The American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) is well into its year, too, and is focusing on the legislative goals that were set during the Las Vegas conference. ABF President George Hansen and ABF Past President Zac Browning have already made one legislative trip to Washington since the conference in order to further the legislative priorities of the ABF, which include:
- Funding for CCD Research. Reports continue to reach us that many of our members and other beekeepers are again having large losses due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The Farm Bill authorized additional funds for CCD research, but only a portion of that was actually appropriated. We are encouraging Congress to appropriate the authorized funds.
- Maintaining ARS Lab Funding. There is a serious attempt to close the Weslaco Lab. Several options are being considered to continue the honey bee work being done there currently. The ABF continues to urge ARS to maintain the research efforts of the scientists, even if the Weslaco Lab is closed.
- Protecting our Honey Market. There continues to be a great deal of discussion concerning the state of our honey market. The discussions come down to two priorities: 1) establishing a national standard of identity for honey, and establishing state standards while we get cooperation from the FDA on the national standard; and 2) stopping illegal imports, particularly transshipment of Chinese honey through intermediary countries. We are being told that our honey market is in precarious shape. We need to take strong steps to shore it up. The FDA has thus far refused work on the honey standard of identity submitted by the industry, led by the ABF nearly six years ago. In Washington, Congressional support for our request has taken a back seat to budget issues. Meanwhile, the list of states that have established state honey standards is growing. We applaud those state actions. The standard of identity will give state and federal enforcement officials a better tool to use to stop those who are adding cheaper sweeteners to our honey. In addition, several persons accused of being involved in honey transshipment have been arrested. In Las Vegas, we were told there will be more indictments.
- Disaster Programs and Crop Insurance and H-2A Labor Programs. We are continuing to work for USDA disaster programs to be more "user friendly" to beekeepers. While immigration and farm subsidies are sure to create headlines, our industry's need for legal laborers requires an H-2A labor program that works, and programs that allow for the management of risk without opening the door to fraud. These are difficult issues and require our input and consistent voice to resolve.
Making these trips to Washington is expensive, but this is something we have to do several times a year as we endeavor to pursue the goals set by the ABF membership. Air travel is never cheap and Washington hotel rates are out-of-sight. Our Washington lobby firm has been working on discounted retainer fees. Now, we need to bump them back up to a reasonable level in light of the extra work load required as the new Farm Bill develops. We must have them working for us on the scene, alert to anything of importance to beekeepers, and especially educating the new crop of representatives of our needs and priorities.
The bottom line is that the ABF cannot achieve the goals set by the membership without the financial resources to get the job done and, at this time, we are approximately $48,000 behind budget in the ABF Legislative Fund. Do we want to see our goals reached badly enough to commit what it takes? We can assure you that your contributions to the ABF Legislative Fund are spent carefully and with full consideration of how important this work is for you, the ABF members. Your legislative fund donations are very much appreciated and are an investment in the future of your business, as well as the bee industry as a whole. You can easily donate online at www.abfnet.org or send your contribution to ABF, 3525 Piedmont Road, Building Five, Suite 300, Atlanta, GA 30305.
posted April 2012