Date: Thu, 26 Oct 1995
From: Andy Nachbaur
Organization: WILD BEE’S BBS (209) 826-8107 LOS BANOS, CA
Subject: Regulations requiring food processing license
>Do any of you know of regulations requiring a food preperation
>license requirement in other states? Here in New Mexico we are
>facing such a requirement. If anyone has any info on how we can
>scientifically, or otherwise, put up an argument that has worked
>elsewhere we would sure appreciate your help. We are having a
>meeting on Oct 31 to fight against this.
Good Luck xxxx, but it will take some work to kill such regulation if it is well sponsored like by the state health department or some organization. (It may also be someone within your own group that is after his competition, you need to know.)
I don’t know of any regulations requiring on farm honey processing plants to be regulated as a “food preparation” site like say a Taco Bell or even a Mexican tortilla factory . Realistic inspection’s that would include beekeeper’s honey processing plants will take away from the little inspection that is now going on in other areas. (Find out how many time’s the greasy spoon’s in your town are being inspected. You may be surprised that they are only checked once a year or less or if someone complains enough, more often. Also find out the number of reported illness from your state health department.)
To defeat this kind of legislation the first thing you have to do is find out who is pushing it and why. If it is just another plan to increase your taxes you many have a better shot at killing it then if it’s in response to people becoming ill or just concerned because they found some bee part’s in some honey they were given by their neighbor who has some bee’s. Or if there is some beekeeper who is a neighborhood nuisance because bee’s are robbing honey drums or some other dumb stunt beekeeper’s are know to pull.
Honey extraction is a specialized “on farm” or back yard seasonal event and does not warrant the same degree of on site inspection as other “food preparation” sites. The cost of such activity is high because of the seasonal nature and isolation of these operations and would not be covered by normal or reasonable licence fee’s and would add to the budget for inspection already mandated or reduce valuable man day’s from that important job. The number of complaint’s of illness or food poisoning from eating Honey processed on the farm does not exist and in total is the lowest of all farm processed foods. In many medium to larger operation’s honey produced on the farm is further processed by the first handler where inspection is mandatory, both local and federal. Honey produced by producers who use the Farm Loan Program is covered by USDA specialized Honey Inspections to qualify for government programs and is inspected.
(check with your state health department to see what is going on if anything, also find out who is pushing for the new legislation. You may find some group or person that has a hard on for beekeeper’s or just some nut who think’s all farmers should be regulated to the hilt since you we all get so much help (cash) from the government.)
Today 99% of the time you are just facing a plan to increase government income and not any realistic effort to clean up the honey producing industry. (Find out what your state beekeeper’s are already paying in county and state taxes for being beekeepers.)
Most state legislator’s will listen to beekeeper’s, we are rare birds and a interesting lot. Bee sure you have a small group of beekeepers who are prepared to discuss the issue and have a FIRM position that they are not afraid to “say it the way they see it”. Ask to testify at any public hearing and do that. Ask for more public hearings, make a record to back your own position. Do not compromise your own position leave that to the politicians they will do it to you anyway and any weakening of your position will be taken advantage of.
Having some political sense can be very helpful, find out which side is pushing the bill and what the leadership position is on it. You must meet with member of both sides, but suck up to the one that is not sponsoring it and if God is watching out for you they will be the majority party and more then willing to help you kill any plan for new laws. Legal help from one of the capital lawyers can be helpful but will not get it done. They can open doors, and show you the process but unless there are some big bucks involved you all are going to have to do the work. Meet one on one with your own representatives. Get the support of other farm group’s, but do NOT let them carry your ball or you may find you have one less.
Now if the honey producer’s in your state contain more then a few people who still extract in tent’s or in old barn’s with dirt floors you may not want to do anything and let nature .err government take it tole. Two states I have worked in have made different run’s on cleaning up the beekeeper’s and normally these last one season and that’s the last you hear of them for years or never. Beekeeper’s have cleaned up over the years from what it once was, which was satisfactory at the time, but is not today. Some of this was good and needed, but one thing that was done that was bad was a crack down by the USDA that finished off the portable and out yard extracting. I believe that if we were still doing it in the field today we would be producing more for less and not have the problems with our bee’s we do have today. I also think we would be doing it a van that would be just as clean as any permanent site, but those day’s are gone and I don’t think that is your problem.
Over the year’s my honey house has been targeted for inspection by every government agency there is. Some of this has benefited me and some of it has been enough to cause any beekeeper to brake up and roll on the floor. California several time’s has got a wild hair to inspect honey extracting plants. One such visit came when I was out of state. At the time I had just installed the top of the line extracting equipment, I was on the cutting edge then, not the bleeding one like now. This included a wonderful flash heater and centrifuge that separated out the honey and melted the wax. Had to add a new 200 amp service for that one. This machine was the early stage of development of the Cook & Beals Separator. Anyway the first tizzy the inspector pulled was when he saw the lifelike rubber plucked chicken that hung over the fancy imported Penrose uncapping machine. “You can’t do that in here, you need to get a different licence to do both chicken’s and honey in the same place.” God’s truth, he really believed that we were plucking chicken’s with the same machine we uncapped honey combs so my long time help told me. This guy was so shook up he did not notice that at the time all the honey from the two big Kelley extractors and the cappings drained into a very large sump and that sump was covered by boards that the man who loaded the extractor stood on, not a very good set up that I changed the next season without any input from any
Everything was A OK when he found a wonderful and well built screen that fit over a 55 gal drum that he assumed we screened the honey through. Actually we only used it when we were taking the tank’s down and wanted to salvage any wax or junk left in the tank that we did not want plugging up the drain or septic system. The honey that went in these tanks was ready for shipment and required no further processing other then putting it in the drums and weighing it.
This guy did leave two legal size pages of suggestions, mostly unrealistic thing’s like fixing all the etching in the floor made by the acid honey eating the cement. The only thing I could do was take that chicken down. He never showed up again.
Mousses americanis, or just mouse droppings was found in the basement of my three story honey house on the western slopes of the Rockies in Colorado. Some federal money was received to do a Honey House inspection in Colorado and I was targeted. A young collage kid was hired for the part time job and showed up with a flash light and found 4 or 5 little smart pills in the basement that was plugged full of 55 gal drums of clover honey in storage for the winter and under loan. That was all he could find but enough to make him understandably happy in his work. With no help from me when inspecting the upper storage area he lost his carefully packaged and labeled packet of smart pills. He had to use a flash light as I already had shut this operation down for the winter and turned off the utilities, including taking in the gas meter that were know to bust from the very low temps when not in use. Anyway I did not want him to go back to the eastern slopes and Denver without any smart pills and wanted to see just how far they would go with evidence like this that had to be sent out to a lab for identification when any dam fool could see what it was so I took him back down to the basement and moved a few drums around so he could find another sample of smart pills. Months later I received this official looking letter from the state and included was the lavatory report that the smart pill were indeed the spore of the mousses americanis and not fossilized buffalo chips which I had framed and hung on the wall in one of my offices.
The last time I was inspected was several years ago when a real lawyer-doctor type state health department man showed up at my front door about noon and demanded to inspect my honey house which is several miles away from my home. After several hours of filling his head with all the legal reason’s he would do that over my dead body I decided to let him do his job without further blood shed when he changed the demand to a polite request much to the surprise and amusement of a farmer friend who was visiting and enjoying every minute.
The inspection was a joy to watch, and the guy could not believe what he was looking at and saw no reason for any more Honey House inspections as we were not at all what he expected and only made one suggestion that I cover the florescent tube’s with plastic tubing and I did that as it was a good idea having cleaned a broken one’s out of a wax vat once. I would have never know that these new at the time safety tubes were then available if this guy had not shown up and it was a positive experience, one of few and still not enough to open my door’s to the public or any government agent without the proper paper work and introduction. I did have two county health people show up once in a fit to inspect all honey houses but one call to the board of supervisor’s put them back on the right track. Thousands of people suffer from improper food handling every year in my area, most of it from food served at restaurants and gatherings. These place’s are only inspected once a year with prior notice because of budget and manpower considerations that have not gotten any better over the years.
Beekeeper’s and the Honey they produce should be so low on the list of things that government should worry about as far as new laws that no one should waste the time. If it ain’t broke no reason to brake it and it would not take much to do that as these are the hard day’s for many beekeepers.
Good Luck and I hope you will keep us posted.
(c)Permission to reproduce, granted.
Opinion is not necessarily fact.