Government Expands To Control Apiaries In Montana
By Tim Ravndal
Montana House Bill 443 has been introduced by Representative Ross Fitzgerald. The new law will do away with the voluntary registration of hobby apiary operations and require all hobby sites to register with the Montana Department of Agriculture.
In Montana there are an average of 5,732 commercial apiary operations that are required under 80-6-102MCA to register with the Montana Department of Agriculture every year. Each year the commercial sites bring the Department of Agriculture $70,000.00/year in registration fees but that figure fluctuates with changes in number of operations.
The registration fee under current law is $19.00/year. Under HB443, the department will be allowed to increase the fee to $29.00/year to help cover the expenditures of the estimated 1000 new hobby apiaries. This increase can also be passed on to the commercial sites as is provided for under the statute.
In addition to the registration fee the department is also authorized to charge up to $100.00 per site under 80-6-106MCA. The application fee is charged to all new registrations. The revenue from applications under the new law if passed will generate additional revenue above the registration fees to offset department expenditures.
The law is in place to protect public safety and welfare of the public in areas where the Bee Keeping industry is in operation. The rules established under Montana law place restrictions on operations to ensure that the guidelines developed by the department are followed. Hobby apiaries have been registered only on a volunteer basis. HB443 will do away with the voluntary option, and make it mandatory.
The department is authorized to order disinfection of any bees, hives, brood comb, or any other equipment that is infected or contaminated with disease or pests and burn the infected or contaminated bees, hives, brood comb, or any other equipment if… in its judgment, disinfection will not remove the infection or contamination.
To prevent the spread of pests and contagious and infectious disease among bees and apiaries, the department may: (a) enter private land containing an apiary site and fly over or enter any farm, railroad right-of-way, or19other grounds or premises containing an apiary site to determine the health or ownership of the bees.
If an infected site is documented, the Department may burn the apiary site. Before burning any property, the department shall give the person to whom the apiary site is registered or the owner of an unregistered hobbyist apiary site a written notice at least 5 days before the date the property will be burned.
Many hobby Apiary enthusiasts are highly concerned that the ability for the department to without notice inspect sites is a violation of private property rights.
Commercial apiaries agree that control of the hobby apiary operations is essential to keep a viable healthy industry safe from disease and contamination. The additional costs assessed by the department will likely be short of managing the increased case load according to the fiscal note on the bill.
The legislation passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 61 to 30. The bill will now go before the Senate Agriculture Committee April 2nd for a hearing in room 335 at 3:00PM in the Montana Capitol.
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