As a beekeeper and as part of my responsibilities as President of the Wisconsin Honey Producers Association, I attended Ag Day at the Capital this past week in Madison. The event is sponsored by the Farm Bureau and is designed to give agriculture a day to voice concerns to legislators.
The started off with a general assembly where we heard from agricultural lobbyists regarding issues in the industry. After lunch, Governor Tony Evers spoke to the group.
The assembly ended with a panel discussion of six State Senators. It was a good example of how these elected officials are trying to make the best decisions on some very complicated issues.
From there we went on to meet with our elected Representatives and Senators. Mary Kettlewell from Southeast Wisconsin, Tony Bowers, WHPA's Western District Chair (not shown), and our Wisconsin Honey Queen, Jennifer Hinkel, accompanied me. I was able to meet with both of my representatives as well as many from other areas of the state.
We discussed several bills that are proposed regarding the beekeeping industry but most of our discussion was on how to protect the health of the honeybee in Wisconsin as well as other native pollinators.
These are the issues that we discussed that help sustain the viability of beekeeping in Wisconsin.
-Pass legislation to remove beekeepers from frivolous lawsuits filed due to honey bee stings. Such legislation has been passed in other states including Washington.
-Pass LRB 3732 creating a sales and use tax exemption for beekeeping equipment proposed by Senator Olsen.
-Reallocation of resources for the DATCP apiary program to enforce statutes to insure that honey bees being imported into Wisconsin are healthy and are not carrying diseases or pests detrimental to the beekeeping industry in Wisconsin.
-Promote and protect honeybee forage. Reducing road side cutting which is destroying many plants that produce nectar. Seeding road side areas with honey bee friendly plantings and encouraging planting of good honey bee forage plants on DNR owned land
-Prevent DNR’s attempt, using the NR40 Invasive Species Rule, to eradicate some of the best bee forage plants in Wisconsin such as Sweet Clover, Birdsfoot, Trefoil, and Crowned Vetch.
The day was a good start but much follow up work is planned to be sure that our requests are followed through on.