Assemblyman Parker Space, whose family has farmed in Sussex County for eight generations, is the sponsor of four bipartisan bills released by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee today that will protect and enhance the state’s commercial and recreational bee industry while helping increase public awareness of the insect that is vital to the state’s food supply.
“Most people are not aware of just how important bees are to the agriculture industry, specifically to our food chain,” stated Space, R-Sussex, Warren and Morris. “They are instrumental for pollination, but in recent years, habitat loss and disease have hurt both the honeybee and native bee populations in New Jersey. These measures will provide additional protections to the state’s 3,000 commercial and hobbyist beekeepers while ensuring they conform to safety standards.
“In addition, the bills will help educate the public about the state insect about which they have very little understanding,” continued Space. “The truth is most bees will not sting you if not provoked. Honey and native bees are not the same as hornets and wasps.”
Bill A-1294 extends “Right to Farm” protections to commercial beekeepers to protect them from nuisance complaints. Currently, if a complaint is filed, the case is referred to a municipal court which can be time consuming and costly. In addition, prosecutors and judges usually have little understanding of the industry. Under this measure, such complaints would be referred to a county agricultural board which better understands issues involving beekeeping.
Beekeeping as a hobby is gaining popularity in New Jersey in both urban and suburban areas, but because the general public and local officials know very little about the hobby, some municipalities are attempting to ban beehives. Space’s second bill, A-1295, allows for hobbyist beekeeping and protects hobbyist beekeepers by authorizing the state Department of Agriculture to regulate the keeping of beehives while at the same time giving municipalities a role in managing this growing hobby at the discretion of the Department. It also requires the Department to prepare best management practices for hobbyist beekeepers.
The third bill, A-1296, establishes a fine of up to $500 for each offense when an individual intentionally destroys a man-made native bee hive. A native bee is native to the state and, unlike a honeybee, does not produce honey, but provides for the pollination of crops and plants.
The fourth bill, AR-71, urges residents to support New Jersey beekeepers by purchasing honey made in state.
Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Ocean, Burlington, Middlesex and Monmouth, and Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, R-Sussex, Warren, and Morris, also sponsor bills A-1294, A-1295, A-1296 and AR-71.