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Andrzejczak, Caride, Mazzeo, Quijano & Wilson Bills to Protect and Promote New Jersey’s Beekeeping Industry Released by Assembly Committee

Legislation Assembly Democrats Sgt. Robert Andrzejczak, Marlene Caride, Vince Mazzeo, Annette Quijano and Whip Wilson sponsored to protect and promote New Jersey’s beekeeping industry and the vital role it plays in New Jersey’s agricultural community was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.

The five bill package was advanced by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee chaired by Andrzejczak.

“Bees are an essential part of agriculture nationwide, needed to pollinate about a third of the food people consume, including important New Jersey crops such as apples, blueberries, cantaloupes, cranberries, cucumbers, peaches, pumpkins, squash and strawberries,” said Andrzejczak (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “Yet, we also know of the problems faced by the industry with a decline in the honey bee population. If we don’t do more to protect this industry, our farming community may suffer irreparable harm. We cannot allow that to happen if we favor a strong New Jersey economy.”

“In New Jersey, honey production is an important part of maintaining the state’s honey bee population, bolstering the economic viability of farms and farm stands throughout the state,” said Caride (D-Passaic/Bergen). “These bills make clear that we will do all we can to protect an important job-creating industry in our state.”

“Sales of honey itself generate at least $500,000 in the state annually, and apiary services and products bring additional income and activity into the state’s economy. It’s estimated that the annual crop value attributable to honey bees was at least $83.6 million in 2002 and has most likely increased significantly since then,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “It’s important to support the state’s more than 3,000 beekeepers to ensure New Jersey will continue to have the valuable resource of the honey bee for pollination and the healthy products connected with honey production, and of course the many jobs and economic activity it brings to our state.”

“According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, about 32 percent of the state’s honey bees died last winter; and the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Environmental Protection Agency released a report in May 2013 identifying the decline of the honey bee population as a complex problem with multiple factors stressing the honey bee population, from parasites and disease to poor nutrition and exposure to pesticides,” said Quijano (D-Union). “The beekeeper and agricultural associations and organizations in the state dedicate portions of their dues to bee research and educational outreach concerning issues affecting the industry, so the importance of this industry in the face of difficulties is quite apparent.”

“We can’t sit idle while such an important industry faces threats,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “These bills make clear that beekeeping and the benefits it brings our farmers and economy are among our priorities. We cannot afford to let it fade away.”

The bills:

· A1294 (Andrzejczak/Caride) – This bill extends Right to Farm Act protections to commercial beekeepers by including in the definition of “commercial farm” under the Right to Farm Act, a farm management unit that is a beekeeping operation producing honey or other agricultural or horticultural apiary-related products, or providing crop pollination services, worth $10,000 or more annually. 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.

· A1295 (Andrzejczak/Caride) – The bill prohibits any municipality from regulating 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. The bill directs the Department of Agriculture to regulate apiary activities in the State and adopt any rules and regulations necessary to do so, including adoption of apiary standards and municipal monitoring and enforcement standards. Finally, the bill authorizes a municipality to assume responsibility for monitoring and enforcing the apiary standards within its borders upon adoption of an ordinance incorporating the standards by reference.

· A1296 (Caride) – This bill establishes a civil penalty of up to $500 for each offense when a person intentionally destroys a man-made native bee hive. Under the bill, 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.

· A2180 (Andrzejczak/Wilson) – This bill designates the Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus Impatiens) as the New Jersey State Native Pollinator. The Common Eastern Bumble Bee, found across New Jersey in urban and rural areas, is native to our State. As generalist pollinators, they are an essential part of our pollinator communities by gathering pollen and nectar from a wide variety of flowering plants. Bumble bees are important to New Jersey’s working farms as key pollinators of blueberries, cranberries, tomatoes and peppers. Pollinators are vital to the health of diverse ecosystems, because the fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination are a major part of the diet of all birds and mammals, including over 30 percent of the foods and beverages that we consume. The benefits that native pollinators provide to New Jersey have been documented through extensive research at Rutgers, the Statue University, and other institutions of higher learning.

· AR71 (Quijano/Mazzeo) – This resolution urges the residents of New Jersey to support beekeepers in the State by purchasing honey made in New Jersey.