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More freedom for beekeepers would be a benefit for all

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Leeward Planning Commission of the County of Hawaii on June 20, 2024
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June 20, 2024, 9:30 a.m.
West Hawai‘i Civic Center

To: Leeward Planning Commission of the County of Hawai‘i
      Barbara DeFranco, Chair
      Mahina Paishon-Duarte, Vice-Chair

From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
Jonathan Helton, Policy Researcher

RE: Bill 144 — RELATING TO ZONING RESTRICTIONS FOR APIARIES AND BEEKEEPING

Aloha Chair DeFranco, Vice-Chair Paishon-Duarte and other Commissioners,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its support for Bill 144, which would amend the county’s zoning regulations on beekeeping and apiaries.

In particular, the measure would amend the definitions of “livestock,” “livestock production” and “animal” to promote beekeeping; describe generally accepted management practices for beekeeping; reduce setbacks for apiaries; and make them a permitted use in all zoning districts.

Taken together, these changes would represent a major positive change in how the County regulates beekeeping, which is a $10 million industry in Hawaii County alone.[1]

Right now, apiaries — which the bill says are sites where one or more colonies of bees are kept — are under the same rules as piggeries and pen feeding of livestock.

These rules mean anyone wanting to have a beehive must get approval from the state Department of Health and follow strict setback laws, including having all hives 1,000 feet or more from any roads — a requirement that ices the ability of many prospective beekeepers to manage hives.[2]

Exempting apiaries from the definition of “livestock production” and regulating them under the Hawaii Right to Farm Act — a law that gives farmers protection from certain nuisance laws and other regulations — would give beekeepers significant freedom in where they could place their hives.[3]

Under the bill, beekeepers would no longer have to follow the 1,000 foot limit and could instead follow less strict setbacks of 25 feet from any property line or 15 feet for apiaries behind a flyover barrier.

This bill is a prime example of how relaxing overbroad regulations could assist Hawaii’s entrepreneurs. Hawaii Island beekeepers already supply 30% to 35% of all queen bees on the mainland and 75% in Canada.[4] With many U.S. honeybee colonies in a precarious position,[5] Hawaii’s beekeepers could play a major role in helping feed the United States and the world.

The measure also represents a major opportunity for the Council to boost a growing industry that could truly help diversify the island’s economy. The increased biodiversity that more bees would bring could improve pollination to support Hawaii’s local flora and fauna as well.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Jonathan Helton
Policy Researcher
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
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[1]Hawaii County beekeepers hope Bill 144 will open up new vistas,” Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, April 18, 2024.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Hawaii Revised Statutes, Chapter 165, accessed June 14, 2024.
[4] See footnote 1.
[5] Seth Borenstein, “Nearly half of US honeybee colonies died last year. Struggling beekeepers stabilize population,” The Associated Press, June 22, 2023.

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