By August of 2020, the Beekeeping Association of the United States (BAU) had closed.
A year later, the organization was on its way to becoming the biggest lobbying organization in the country, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Now, the association’s fate is up in the air.
In December of 2020 the USDA awarded the Beekeeper’s Association of Arizona (BAAZ) $13.5 million in funding to help it start up a new operation, which it would eventually name Beekeepers of the World, which would operate as an online marketplace for beekeeping products.
The Beekeepers would work in partnership with the USDA, which is trying to get the industry off its feet.
In 2018, the USDA also gave the Beemakers of America $25 million in grants to support a new program that will help the industry expand.
In January 2019, the beekeepers of BAZ applied for a new federal subsidy for a small, privately run operation in Arizona.
But the USDA has not granted the application.
“The beekeepers had a strong argument,” said Mark Hulbert, a beekeeper who is the executive director of the Bee-Free America Foundation.
“They had a lot of good things they wanted to do and we have a lot to prove.
The USDA’s position is, they don’t want the industry to flourish and there’s not enough money to do it.”
The Bee-free America Foundation has filed a lawsuit with the US Department of Agriculture to get that money.
The Bee-makers’ new plan to grow, processing and selling bee products is already making headlines, even before the USDA subsidy.
At the same time the BeeFree America foundation filed the lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded the first of two tax credits to BAZ for bee products.
Bee-friendly states like California and Florida have seen a boom in beekeeping, and the Beelets of the world is now a force to be reckoned with in Arizona and New Mexico, which were previously two of the worst bee-farming states in the nation.
The state has become one of the nation’s biggest beekeepers.
But as the economy has recovered from the Great Recession, so have beekeeping costs.
The average cost for processing a dozen colonies of honey is about $10,000.
But Beekeepers say they can make those costs as low as $2,000 for a single hive and $4,000 to $7,000 per hive per year.
In Arizona, the average processing costs for one hive is $3,000 and in Florida, it’s closer to $3.00 per hive.
But when you add up all the fees and taxes that go into a single $20,000 beekeeping operation, it comes to about $50,000 annually for a beekeeping business.
The state’s Bee-less Act is designed to keep the industry from becoming a black market.
It bans the use of pesticides and fungicides in the industry and requires the companies to register with the state.
The Act also limits the number of hives that can be in operation at a time, and requires all beekeeping operations to comply with an extensive set of environmental regulations.
The federal government is also trying to keep bees from becoming an illegal trade in the United State.
Department to date has approved two tax incentives to help BAZ, including a $30 million loan guarantee and a $15 million tax credit.
But those loans were granted under the guise of helping beekeepers who would otherwise be unable to open new operations.
Beekeepers, who are already struggling to make ends meet on their own, say that tax credits are a way to give them an edge over their competitors.
Bazaaz CEO Dan Hagan said the state is using the Bee Free Act to give an unfair advantage to those who have the most to lose by opening a new business.
“You can’t compete with someone who has to pay an extra $50 million tax stamp every year to do what’s in their best interest,” Hagan told the Arizona Republic.
“And the federal government, by taking money away from people who are struggling to keep a business afloat, is helping them out.”
Hagan said Bee-keepers are struggling with the cost of processing honey because they’re on the hook for a significant portion of the processing costs, and they are also facing a variety of issues in the growing industry.
Beekeeping is so new that beekeepers don’t have much experience with the traditional way of handling their products, said Hagan.
“We have to make sure that our products are clean and in a way that we can sell them, and then we’re going to be able to get back to the business.”
The government is already trying to help beekeepers like Bee-maker Chris Babbitt, who is running a small operation in New Mexico.
Babbit started his beekeeping company in 2011