Three bills to protect and promote New Jersey's beekeeping industry, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Van Drew, Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak and other legislators in Trenton, have been signed into law. Honey bees, which have been declining throughout the country in recent years, represent a $7 million industry in New Jersey and contribute to the production of about $200 million worth of fruit and vegetables here annually.
The first bill extends the Right to Farm Act protections to commercial beekeepers who produce honey or other agricultural or horticultural apiary-related products or provide crop pollination services worth $10,000 or more annually.
The second law requires that regulation of beekeepers and the breeding or keeping of honey bees and any related activities be done exclusively at the state level by the Department of Agriculture, which may delegate responsibility for enforcing and monitoring the standards within its borders to a municipality.
The third law establishes a civil penalty of up to $500 for each offense when a person intentionally destroys a man-made native bee hive.
Noting the importance of the legislation, Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo quoted a statement by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture that about 32 percent of the state's honey bees died last winter. Honey bees reportedly pollinate about a third of the food Americans eat. In New Jersey, that includes apples, cranberries, blueberries, cantaloupes, cucumbers and watermelons, as well as a wide variety of flowers and tree species.
To put this all into perspective, there has been a mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the United States annually. Pesticides, fungicides and parasites are believed to be among the factors that have wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives over the past six years. Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country's surviving bee colonies to pollinate just one California crop, almonds. And California supplies 80% of the world's almonds, a market worth $4 billion.