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California's Misdirected Proposal to Tax Bee Keepers

California Bee Tax Photo Credit: Andy Hay

The modern bee keeper is a gambler.  Colony Collapse Disorder has left North America with half the number of hives it had 30 years ago, 50% of California's bees died last winter alone.  It now costs more for farmers to rent bees than ever before- seasonal profits can be good, but it seems the house is winning.  So why not tax bee keeping like gambling as the California Apiary Research Commission is thinking of doing?  Oh yeah, maybe because California is the US's main producer of fruits and vegetables and bees pollinate the food that allows us to live. 

At best, this could be viewed as a misguided attempt to help fund research by a bankrupt state government. But it contradicts the premise of the much-needed research and misappropriates the state's role in intervening to help avert possible disaster as a result of CCD.

California is broke.  I mean, it's the 8th largest economy in the world, spends almost nothing on education, has the highest sales and income taxes in the nation, and has human and natural resources that make other nations literally weep at night; but they are broke.  They also depend on honey bees.

Take almonds for example.  If you've ever eaten one, it's likely that it came from California.  California produces 80% of the world's almonds and grosses more than $2 billion annually.  However, unlike a lot of other crops that can be fertilized by other methods, notoriously finicky almond trees can only be pollinated by bees.  The California almond industry utilizes more than 60% of America's commercially kept honeybees.  With CCD dessimating hives and destroying businesses, bee keeping revenues from the California almond harvest subsidize pollination throughout the state and beyond.

No one is arguing that bees are important to California, nor are the tragic effects of CCD in question.  It's California's absurd logic in tackling the bee problem that is cause for concern.  Already last year the state instituted a 7% tax on out of state keepers to help fund research.  Now they want to levy another tax.  For a failing industry, that's like taxing someone on their unemployment check.  It simply doesn't make sense.  Meanwhile energy companies make billions and escape taxes through the state's tax sieve, I mean code.

Bee keeping benefits everyone, so the state should pay for this out of the state's general tax fund.  Research and hopefully a solution to Colony Collapse Disorder will benefit everyone in the state, not just the commercial interests of the bee keepers.  It seems to me that the decision to tax the bee keepers is born out of the politics of the state having failed in its fiscal responbilities.  Despite the fact that bees are essential to growing the food people eat, they've reached a point politically where they can't justify laying off thousands of teachers, cutting back on services for the poor, sick, elderly, etc. (and there are lots of etceterras) and using money to fund bee keeping.

It's a scary thought, a world without bees.  Almonds might seem trivial, but subsidizing the cost of the nation's pollination needs is no joke.  I'd like to think that if the public were more informed of the problem, they might be a little more lenient politically.  But Californian's have taken a lot of hits from their failed leadership and they may be right here.  But how about those almond growers, they don't seem to be doing so bad.  No belt tightening there, except maybe for the illegal immigrants who harvest the crop and will be getting fewer state services.  Maybe it's time the almond growers pitch in.

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