2015 Bills

HB224: Deregulating Beekeeping in Utah

This bill was not considered by the legislature.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Currently, Utah law prohibits beekeeping unless the individual first registers with, and pays, the state government. This mandate has led many beekeepers to “go underground” by defying the requirement and doing it without the government’s permisison or knowledge.

House Bill 224, sponsored by Representative Marc Roberts, proposes carving out the registration requirement for those who operate five bee hives or less, leaving the burden to the commercial beekeepers and others with a large operation. Those exempted from the registration requirement would, under the bill, still be able to voluntarily register to receive services if they so desire.

The bill also:

  • removes a provision that prohibits a beekeeper from operating a hive that does not contain movable parts;
  • allows county inspectors to investigate complaints only when they allege a severely diseased, parasitized, or abandoned hive, and only after giving notice to the owner;
  • removes a requirement that compels beekeepers to allow inspectors on their property for a routine annual inspection, making the inspection voluntary and requiring consent of the owner;
  • allows the Department of Agriculture to restrict migratory beekeeping upon petition for purposes of protecting bee genetics or breeding; and
  • prohibits cities from adopting or enforcing ordinances or regulations related to raising or managing bees.

In essence, this bill largely deregulates beekeeping, allowing property owners to engage freely in the market and participate in a natural process without being on a government list and paying fees. As such, we support the proposed legislation.

  • Jerry Shue Moab

    I am baffled by the logic of several of the proposed amendments. Do you have any idea why moveable frames allow for disease diagnosis and promote the general well-being of all beekeepers and those who benefit from honey bees? Why do you want to go back to the 19th century, when bee diseases were undetectable and transmission was rampant, and agricultural pollination was threatened. Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.

  • Jerry Shue Moab

    Your proposals are self-contradictory. You allow for the validity of inspection (under some circumstances), but allow for non-moveable frame hives that can’t be inspected. 
    There is more to beekeeping than “allowing property owners to engage freely in the market.” Do you believe in having meat inspected? Shall we all just “participate in a natural process” like honey bee bacterial diseases that are highly contagious?

  • pam

    honeybees are imported domesticated livestock.  Many of these regulations are in place to protect the industry and the hobbits.  In todays bee crisis coupled  with the rampant loss of native pollinators it is even more critical that honeybees are managed  properly.

  • ChrisRodesch

    I respect the idea of minimizing regulations on the general public and applaud efforts to review and update legislation to keep up with the times. However, based on my experience as an Apiary inspector for the county, I think its a mistake to assume that beekeepers with a small number of hives pose no threat or a proportionately lower threat to honey bee populations as a whole. Backyard beekeepers in general are often quite careful with their bees because they choose to keep bees and are keenly in touch with their hobby. Unfortunately it takes experience to recognize the signs of disease, in particular American Foul Brood (AFB) which is a bacteria that can spread via spores shared between neighboring hives. It is my understanding that spread of AFB is the chief reason for the Apiary inspection act, and some of the seemingly invasive portions of the statute (allowing inspectors access, registering etc.) are to protect nearby hives from becoming infected and to stem the spread of a deadly honey bee disease.
     I do think that the State should take the lead on correcting the uneven regulation that is currently in place amongst the townships along the Wasatch Front and elsewhere in Utah. Currently there are more than 10 different versions of acceptable beekeeping practices required depending on whether you live in Midvale, Murray, Salt Lake City etc. It seems that rather than navigate the landscape of different ordinances the State should take the lead on establishing best practices and minimize the confusion. It seems arbitrary to allow differential treatment of beekeepers whom often live a block apart and whose bees do not respect township boundaries. An example of where the State successfully consolidated animal related ordinances is in the removal of breed specific ordinances for dogs. Public health and Safety and not really a regional issue in my opinion (at least not at the township level), and should be coordinated by the State who is ultimately responsible for mitigating problems anyway. 
       Based on my experience, in the townships where beekeeping is allowed and regulated in a minimal way, relatively few complaints are issued by the general public. I do not notice a pattern of complaints that corresponds to townships that allow or disallow beekeeping. In any case, most of these complaints can be handled on a voluntary basis. I find that except in rare cases, beekeepers are happy to let you inspect their hives and eager to learn how to manage them in a way that benefits the bees and their nearby neighbors. In cases where public health, or in this case livestock health is concerned, the State health department or Agriculture department always has had the responsibility if not the authority to intervene (think West Nile virus, wasting disease etc.). If we are considering removing the authority of the State to inspect/seize/medicate potentially infected hives, we should also relieve them of the responsibility to control disease outbreaks with which they also are entrusted. 
      It is my understanding that the State bee ordinance indicates we should contact the registered beekeeper before proceeding with any inspection if possible. In cases where the hives are not labeled or registered the landowner is contacted to find out if they have contact information for the beekeeper. If no identification can be made and notice on the hives is not responded to within 30 days, the State Statute defines the hives as abandoned whether they are occupied by bees or not. In these cases the hives can be seized and disposed of accordingly. One of the benefits of registering your hives is to allow timely notification, and to prevent disputes over hive ownership and condition.

  • davidmpark

    With our financial issues this bill would help us supply our needs much easier. If the state needs to inspect our future hives, I respect that and will comply – when notified they need to inspect. Even the State of Utah needs to respect the sanctity of a home. And to save that fee is nice.

    I really appreciate the State finally viewing non-commercial home production as a means for the impoverished to supplement their needs without creating complications. Since products are created, stored, and consumed on a private residence; there’s no need to tax or fee those products or its consumption.

  • Brian Stephenson

    In most cases I completely agree with those who wish to shrink the size and reach of government.  However,  I think we can all agree that some laws are necessary.  I enjoy driving 80 miles an hour on the freeway, which is made possible by laws that standardize the behavior of all motorists.  Because honeybees are free ranging livestock, diseases are easily transmissible between populations as they interact in the field. Inspection is therefore prudent to limit the introduction of pathogens.  This is necessary regardless of the size of the beekeeper.  One diseased hive can infect a thousand the same way one sick person can infect a city.  The requirement to register is to facilitate inspection; I believe that the cost to register is minimal and not a barrier to anyone seriously interested in beekeeping as a hobby.  As has been stated in other comments, the regulations on equipment are to make good inspection possible.  Any serious beekeeper knows that you have to visually inspect the eggs and larvae to determine their health status, and to do this you need to be able to remove the individual frames.  Most of the current legislation is effective in protecting the beekeeping industry in Utah and should be preserved.  The technical changes, updating and clarifying language are certainly fine; and the proposal to standardize regulations statewide is an excellent idea.  Lets make these proactive changes without weakening the current protective and preventative statutes.

  • Brian Stephenson

    @davidmpark  I completely agree that government should stay out of our private lives and business as much as possible.  I think your willingness to voluntarily allow inspection is commendable; I wish it could be guaranteed that everyone would be so accommodating.  I think the current requirement to register helps to notify the inspector of the presence of bees, he certainly can’t just drive around looking for new ones.  I believe that the cost to register is not substantial and would not be a burden to anyone.  I completely agree that non-commercial home production should be allowed and encouraged; but, given the free ranging nature of honeybees prudent steps should be taken to protect the health of the statewide population.  I’m sure you wouldn’t want your hives to sicken and die because one of your neighbors isn’t as responsible and as attentive to his bees as you are.