It’s honey bee day at the Iowa Capitol. (RI photo)

A bill being considered in the legislature would eliminate the state sales tax on the sale on beehives.

State Apiarist Andy Joseph estimates there are about half a million beehives in Iowa. “Most beekeepers are pretty small scale, between two and 10 hives,” he says, “and then we have a handful of beekeepers, maybe a dozen, maybe 15 on a commercial industry level and a lot of those have thousands and thousands of hives.”

In total, there are an estimated 4500 beekeepers in Iowa. North Dakota produces the most honey of any state. Iowa currently ranks 16th.

“Once upon a time, ancient history, Iowa was number one. We had more beekeepers, more hives and produced more honey than anywhere else, so by basically every metric we were number one, but that’s going back almost 100 years,” Joseph says. “That changed with all the farm changes in the ’40s, you know, Farm Bill changes and then technology changes increased farming.”

Jamie Beyer of Boone, a lobbyist for the Iowa Honey Producers Association, says the economic benefit of bees is immense. “How do you measure good pollination versus poor pollination? When we have a lot of bee colonies across the state, we have better pollination,” he says, “even in
our soybean fields.”

Iowa Honey products. (RI photo)

Beyer, who is from Boone, manages about 50 hives for his business, called Beyer’s Bees. He says bees are just as valuable to the state’s economy as pigs and cattle and the state sales tax shouldn’t be assessed when bee hives sold or rented for pollination.

The Iowa Honey Producers Association hosted Honey Bee Day at the Iowa Capitol yesterday. “One of the goals of the Iowa Honey Producers Association is to become better at producing honey,” Beyer says. “We actually import twice as much honey as what Iowans consume.”

The association served legislators, staff and Capitol visitors an array of food with honey as an ingredient. They also had a display of honey products that included a bottle of mead made in Iowa. Mead is fermented honey and the association had to get special permission to bring the alcohol into the Capitol — and keep the bottle capped.

Radio Iowa