Local farmers meet with State Representative about bee problem

On Wednesday afternoon, (8-13-14) 11 local farmers met with Samantha Brunner from the State Department of Agriculture to voice their concerns about the over concentration of honeybee apiaries in the area and lack of enforcement of regulations pertaining to apiaries.


Posted on 8/16/14

By Melissa Anderson

The farmers stressed that they don’t want to eliminate the bee industry from the area. They just want the bee industry to show some respect and consideration to those who live here year round.

One of the biggest issues that the farmers presented Brunner with, who is listed as State Apiary Inspector on the State Department of Agriculture website, was the number of unregistered apiaries in the area. One farmer stated that almost 50 percent of the apiaries in the area are unregistered. Many of these unregistered apiaries are dropped on CRP land that is owned by absentee land owners.

According to the North Dakota State Law concerning this complaint :

“Each beekeeper shall register all apiaries that are or will be maintained by the beekeeper within the state at the same time an application for license is made. The name of the property owner on whose property the apiary is located; where the registrant is not the property owner, a copy of the written lease or other document from the property owner granting the applicant permission to maintain an apiary at that location. The written lease or other document is adequate for subsequent registrations if the parties to the agreement remain the same.”

Brunner responded to this complaint by stating that when owners of those apiaries are found to be unregistered with the state, they have 15 days to register the apiary and come into compliance with the law.

The complaint of  the over concentration of honeybees is making it difficult for farmers to work on their machinery in fields and on the vacant yards where their grain bins are located. This issue is mainly caused by too many apiaries being located too close together.

Currently there is no limitation to how many hives may be in an apiary or how close together these apiaries may be. Honeybees have a pollinating zone of up to five miles.

Many of the apiaries have very poor visibility for contact information for the owner of the apiaries. Most have a small sign or spray paint onto the side of the hives. If a person wants to get that information they must drive up onto the property and in some instances must drive around the colony searching for the information.

Brunner stated that beekeepers may place their contact information on the hives themselves and still be in compliance.

State law has the current code for identification of colonies :“Each beekeeper shall post a board or weatherproof placard bearing the beekeeper’s name, address, and telephone number at or near the main entrance of each apiary or on a beehive. The board or placard must measure at least eight inches [20.32 centimeters] high by eleven inches [27.94 centimeters] long. The letters and numbers must be at least one-half inch [1.27 centimeters] high and must be legible. The commissioner may approve, in writing, alternative sign or lettering dimensions. Failure to post each apiary causes the apiary, all equipment, and bees to be deemed abandoned and subject to seizure by the state bee inspector.”

The farmers also noted that the state licensing fees for beekeepers and registration fees for apiaries are very low. The farmers suggested raising these fees to help offset the cost of having additional staff to enforce the regulations. They also asked who is responsible for enforcing the regulations.

According to state law: “A license fee of five dollars must accompany each license application made pursuant to section 4-12.2-04.

In addition to the five dollar license fee required by section 4-12.2-05, an beekeepers must submit fifteen cents per colony for each colony maintained in this state.”

It should be noted that these current amounts will be amended under the new  Century code. The new amounts will be 10 cents per colony and  one dollar registration fee.

Continuing with this complaint,  State law has the following concerning who is responsible for enforcement of these regulations: “Any bees or equipment found to be transported or maintained in violation of the beekeeping laws of this chapter may be confiscated by the state bee inspector or the sheriff of any county where the offense may have occurred and must be disposed of pursuant to court order or an administrative order issued by the commissioner after a hearing held under chapter 28-32, unless the bees or equipment are disposed of under section 4-12.2-21.”

The State Department of Agricultures website states that : “Hives are inspected when requested by the beekeeper.”

These inspections are usually done to determine the health of  the bees and earn a health certificate for the honey produced.

The farmers also discussed the penalties that a beekeeper would face should they be found in violation of the regulations sanctioned by the State.

Currently, the State regulations are as follows:  “A person who violates this chapter or any rules adopted under this chapter is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

In addition to criminal sanctions which may be imposed pursuant to subsection 1, a person found guilty of violating this chapter or rules adopted under this chapter is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed five thousand dollars for each violation. The civil penalty may be adjudicated by the courts or by the commissioner through an administrative hearing pursuant to chapter 28-32.”

The farmers present voiced their frustration with Brunner about the handling of their complaints by the State Department of Agriculture.  The farmers stated that the Department has repeatedly told those who call to complain about the bees that they have not received any previous complaints.

It should be noted that according to State law: “The agriculture commissioner may cancel the registration of an apiary when the bees located on the apiary site are causing a nuisance as defined in chapter 42-01.”

Another complaint that the farmers had is that the bee industry has very little, if any, oversight. Yet they are around the third mostly highly subsidized agricultural program in the state.

According the State Department of Agriculture website, “North Dakota is the #1 honey producing state in the nation. In 2012, North Dakota bees produced over 34 million pounds of honey valued at over $64 million.”

The farmers continued by stating that the majority of the beekeeper products are being shipped out of state. T

For many of these complaints the answer Brunner provided was that it was up to the State Legistlature to solve the problems that the farmers presented to her.

Many of the farmers had already spoken to their representatives and found them to be complacent about the issue.

The farmers present stated that if the issues are not resolved that many of the farmers, upwards of 300 in total, are willing to organize and revoke easements. If this is done, the honeybee industry will be virtually removed from the area.

At this public meeting, Samantha Brunner, a Plant Protection Specialist, presented her business card. Her office can be reached at 701-328-4765.