No Pork Barrel Politics Here

Feb 2, 2009

“Honey bee insurance” buzzed into the news Feb. 1 when Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appeared on the CBS Show, "Face the Nation" and blasted the state of the economy and President Obama's  economic stimulus plan.


"I doubt if the government buying $600 million worth of automobiles would provide the kind of stimulus that we're talking about here," McConnell said. "And we certainly don't need honeybee insurance. Look, this thing needs to be targeted right at the problem, if we're going to spend this enormous amount of money.”

Honey bee insurance? I listened closely for more details, but none came.


What he didn’t say--or explain--is that this is a form of crop insurance, similar to what is offered to many crop producers.


One of the earliest to write about honey bee insurance was UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen, who discussed  revenue insurance in the November/December 2002 edition of his “From the UC Apiaries” publication.  At the time, beekeepers were exploring ways to protect their investments against devastating losses.  The program works like this: pay a premium to an insurance company, and if a devastating loss occurs, you’re protected up to a specific portion of your loss.


The program is now under way, but is not offered yet in some states, including California and Florida. These two states, Mussen says, are expected to join the crop insurance program this year.


So, bottom line: Beekeepers who elect to pay a premium will receive compensation if the honey crop revenue falls below the listed “trigger” value of that year. The compensation depends on the level of coverage purchased for the colonies they own.

Currently, only honey production--not pollination or queen or bulk production--can be insured through this specific honey bee insurance program, Mussen says. And this is based on weather conditions. If there’s a drought, for example, and the bees have little food, satellite images would verify the lack of plant growth.


Back in 2002, Mussen estimated that the insurance would cost a little over 6 cents for each dollar of coverage. The federal government’s subsidy would reduce the beekeeper’s premium to three cents per dollar.

Fact is, government subsidies are nothing new, but they are new to beekeepers. 


Beekeeping is an agricultural industry involving risks, just like those who plant almonds, strawberries or watermelons. Insurance is part of a good management plan.


It’s taking the good with the bad.

It's like the daphne (below) that offers scented flowers but beware those poisonous berries.   

By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

HONEY BEE ON DAPHNE--The daphne is known for its scented flowers--but beware those poisonous berries. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee on daphne