Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Busted - A Bad Law for PA Honey Producers

A community or on-farm/at-home honey room is a long-standing tradition in PA and illegal operation 2011-2012

Pennsylvania is a big state, one of the biggest in the East with 67 mostly rural counties. With the slow burn out and collapse of heavy manufacturing in the Commonwealth since the 1970s, forestry and agriculture are the largest sectors of the economy. I am proud to play a role, though very small, in our region's agricultural enterprise, and even prouder that I can carry on a tradition that started with my grandmother, great aunt and uncle in the 1920s of keeping bees for orchards. I can still smell the apples blossoms on Smith Mountain and the rich scent of newly opened hives as my Uncle Mac and Aunt Virginia worked their yards. I can taste the wax handed to me by my grandmother when I was very small to chew like gum as she sliced thick bricks of comb honey to give to the orchard manager's family.

Tradition is important in agriculture, and though it is important to change with the times in order to stay in business and of service, some aspects of the business are treasured such as the handshake contract, the gifting of a quart of honey to the orchard owner, and the "c'mon in!" welcome the beekeeper gives his retail customers at the honey room. When a very unmanageable piece of legislation passed in PA in 2011 (that virtually made all at-home honey rooms and sales illegal) I watched as my dreams of expanding a family business go down the drain. The protests from every PA county from Lake Erie to the Delaware River were loud and long. It took a strong lobbying effort of local and state beekeeping associations to reverse this bad law.

No longer criminals, PA beekeepers of all stripes and sizes, who process their own honey, can once again sit around the kitchen table with a customer, or take a tour of the on-farm and at-home honey room, and not be breaking a list of health department rules. I can move ahead with my honey room plans and secure my township home business permit without worry.

Agriculture, unlike banking, is not too big to fail. There are so many moving parts and complex interelated pieces that it doesn't take but one unreasonable bit of poorly researched legislation to make an entire system frail. HB 2565 reverses an unreasonable law that threatened not only the producer's livelihood, but threatened the tradition and strength of one of PA's most treasured agricultural traditions. Agriculture requires a working knowledge of how and why laws are made, and more importantly, what we can do as farmers and producers to reverse uninformed and unreasonable regulations that harm our businesses and relationships to our customers, our clients, and the land.

Act 106 http://www.pastatebeekeepers.org/pdf/ACT_106.pdf   (I'm a criminal)
HB2565  http://www.pastatebeekeepers.org/pdf/HB2565.pdf   (I'm not a criminal)
Extracting Rules http://www.pastatebeekeepers.org/pdf/HoneyProcessingGuidelines2012.pdf

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! As a small hobby farm owner in York County-I would like to have bees someday. I had no idea of this recent legislation. BTW-I worked as a seasonal many years ago at Rocks State Park! I was researching local beekeepers when I came across your blog and recognized your name. Thanks for the info!