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Bee Bills Become Garden State Laws

Bee Bills Become Garden State Laws

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TRENTON – A three-bill package sponsored by Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-1st) to protect the state’s bee population, which is critical to the health of New Jersey’s agricultural crops, was signed into law July 31. All three take effect immediately.
Two of those bills originated from the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee chaired by Assembly Robert Andrzejczak (D-1st). The General Assembly approved the measures in June, a release stated.
“New Jersey’s bee population is so important to the health of our agricultural industry and the fruits and vegetables that are grown across the state,” stated Van Drew in a separate release.
“Supporting and protecting the ability of beekeepers to conduct their operations in an effective way is crucial to maintaining all of the elements that make us the ‘Garden State.’ I am proud of the work we’ve done to improve safeguards for the beekeeping industry which will strengthen the ability of professionals in the field to do their jobs. At the same time, it will allow our state’s agriculture community to take advantage of all of the very important benefits bees provide.”
Honey bees are the most important pollinator for agriculture, according to information from the state Department of Agriculture, and pollinate about a third of the food Americans eat.
They also pollinate a wide variety of flowers and tree species. In New Jersey, crops that benefit from bee pollination include apples, cranberries, blueberries, cantaloupes, cucumbers and watermelons, according to state data.
Because honey bees have been plagued by a variety of introduced insect and bacterial parasites, it is extremely rare to find natural colonies. This makes managed beekeeping an essential activity.
The first measure signed July 31 (S1328) extends the Right to Farm Act protections to commercial beekeepers who are producing honey or other agricultural or horticultural apiary-related products, or providing crop pollination services, worth $10,000 or more annually. 
The Right to Farm Act, enacted in 1983, protects responsible commercial farmers from public and private nuisance actions and unduly restrictive municipal regulations.
Qualifying for farmland assessment would not be necessary for such a commercial farm to receive right to farm protections.  However, the bill also clarifies that a farm management unit that is a beekeeping operation will not be entitled to Right to Farm Act protections for any agricultural or horticultural activities beyond the apiary and related activities unless the farm management unit otherwise qualifies as a commercial farm under that act.
The second law (S1975) requires that regulation of beekeepers, and the breeding or keeping of honey bees and any related activities, including the use of honey bees for pollination, reproduction and sale of honey bees, or the production of honey and other apiary products from honey bees, be done exclusively at the state level by the Department of Agriculture. The law will allow the department to delegate to a municipality the responsibility for monitoring and enforcing standards within the municipality’s borders.
It prohibits any municipality from regulating the breeding or keeping of honey bees and any related activities. 
The third law (S2302) establishes a civil penalty of up to $500 for each offense when a person intentionally destroys a man-made native bee hive.  Under the law, a man-made native bee hive is defined as a tube or other apparatus in which native bees may nest, and which is installed to attract native bees.  A native bee is defined as a species native to the State that does not produce honey, but that provides for the pollination of crops or plants, or other agricultural, environmental or horticultural benefits.
New Jersey’s 20,000 bee colonies represent a $7-million honey bee industry for the state and contribute to the production of nearly $200 million worth of fruits and vegetables annually, according to the Department of Agriculture.
“Bees can be mistaken by humans as predators, but the truth is that they are unlikely to sting unless disturbed. We have to continue to educate people about honey bees and their invaluable contribution to our agricultural community,” stated Van Drew.
“The fact is that millions of dollars of crops are grown in New Jersey each year, and with much of them dependent upon pollination from bees, protecting them is critical. These laws go a long way to improve protections and to ease restrictions on beekeepers who are working to support and maintain this important industry,” Van Drew stated.

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