Imagine if a bill was passed that offered farmers the option of installing bee colonies on their land in exchange for tax deductions – Jonathan O
Do you remember the people who encouraged and supported your ideas? I was reminded of the goodness of answering questions constructively recently when reading a great answer on Quora by Richard Muller in response to a student’s ‘solution’ to figuring out gravity.
After receiving an email asking for Beekeeping Association feedback from a student who wanted to solve the bee crisis, I was inspired to make an effort at being encouraging like Professor Muller. Here’s my first step in embracing the concept at least.
The Letter and Concept: Tax deductions for bees
My Name is Jonathan, I am Student at the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita. I am currently enrolled in an English class that requires a semester long project. For my project I’m doing a proposal that in theory could restore some of the bee population. as a requirement I have to do a very short survey. It is my hope that you will take three to five minutes to read my short proposal and answer the four questions below. I thank you for your time and effort.JonathanImagine if a bill was passed that offered farmers the option of installing bee colonies on their land in exchange for tax deductions. The tax deductions would cover the cost of installation and maintenance (including the services of beekeepers). In theory, if farmers did allow hives on their land;their crop pollination levels would increase, their crop yields would also increase. the farmers would have more product to sell, the bee colony counts would rise, and the U.S. economy would receive a boost from the increase in perishable trade goods.1. If a program of tax deductions for bee colony installment and maintenance was implemented would you be interested? Why or Why not?2. Can you foresee any potential problems with this program? If so, do you have any solutions?3. Were you aware of bee colony declines before this survey?4. Can you think of any improvements to the proposed program?
Supporting students’ curiosity for bee health, farming and the environment!
It’s great to hear that you’re interested in bee health, farming and the environment, keep it up!
As you continue to learn more about the beekeeping industry, native bees, and the wide variety of issues facing both, I hope you’ll continue to develop your ideas and share your enthusiasm on ways to help!
I’m a director with the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association, and also the founder of a company which designs a smart bee camera for monitoring honey bee hives, I will answer from my personal and company perspective rather than officially from the SBBA.
1. If a program of tax deductions for bee colony installment and maintenance was implemented would you be interested? Why or Why not?
- Check out some of the examples of programs implemented in different states that are similar to your concept e.g. Washington, Florida, and the American Bee Project.
- Many types of farmers, particularly almond, sunflower, and canola growers actually pay commercial beekeepers for pollination services, there’s a significant industry that operates currently where this model is profitable and supports around $15B in crop value in the USA. Check out the USDA’s report.
- Personally as a backyard beekeeper with 10 hives (5 are nucs I raise for members) I keep bees for the joy of beekeeping, and consider honey just a bonus when the bees have some to spare. I would be less interested in the income from a few hives placed on farmer’s properties, as I would expect them to be less accessible, and potentially in harms way of other farming activities (pesticide spraying, livestock etc). I don’t have the time to manage a commercially viable number of hives with my day job. Commercial beekeepers have to work very hard!
- I do however know some mid-sized professional beekeepers focused on honey production who would be very happy to have more good locations to place hives.
2. Can you foresee any potential problems with this program? If so, do you have any solutions?
- Farmers may not want to deal with individual amateur beekeepers with good intentions but less experience. Liability insurance is an important theme even for beekeeping associations led by experienced beekeepers and educators!
- Even in the well established commercial pollination industry, the communication between growers and beekeepers gets out of sync and bees get killed due to pesticides used by growers at the end of a pollination cycle. It may be even more challenging when the hives don’t represent a significant income source for farmers.
- I think that creating an incentive program for semi-professional beekeepers that makes it easier to place their bees in potentially appropriate places e.g. state parks, military bases, or smaller organic farms or large backyards might be great, so long as in the end the incentive made money for the American public as well as the beekeepers.
- A concept that is exciting to me with similar benefits of boosting bee populations is to provide an inventive for farmers and the community to plant native wildflowers which support both western honey bees (an introduced species), as well as native bees. Check out exciting projects like The Great Seed Bomb and this excellent article on using the Farm Bill to support pollinators by the USDA. This $8M program is another example, andhere and here etc.
3. Were you aware of bee colony declines before this survey?
- Yes! Being a backyard organic urban ‘farmer’ and beekeeper, and a member in my local beekeeping association connects me directly to the issues, and with people who share an interest and passion for these issues!
4. Can you think of any improvements to the proposed program?
- Perhaps you can make an easy to follow info-graphic to benefit beekeepers to help them understand existing incentive programs. Promoting education and the importance of pollinators and pollinator supporting habitat is a wonderful and important outcome of the type of project you have chosen!
Keep up your passion and enthusiasm for bees, agriculture, and making the world a better place!
Best of luck,
If nothing else, I hope to see, encourage and create more positive curiosity in people wanting to help bees!