The Wisconsin Legislature is considering a proposal to reduce the cost of beekeeping in the state.
The legislation would extend the exemption on sales tax in beekeeping equipment to all beekeepers no matter their size.
The tax exemption now only applies to Wisconsin beekeepers with 50 or more hives and is included in the law that waves sales taxes for agriculture-related businesses such as farming and horticulture.
“We don’t count how many dairy cows a dairy farmer has,” state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, one the bill’s sponsors, tells Wisconsin Public Radio. “If somebody is in the business of beekeeping, whether it’s for producing honey and wax or for going out and pollinating fields, that’s as much a part of our food supply chain as other types of farming.”
Wisconsin beekeepers have seen annual colony losses increase dramatically over the last few years to 30% to 50% and Loudenbeck says she hopes the tax exemption will help them.
Entomology professor Claudio Gratton of the University of Wisconsin-Madison says beekeepers must rebuild their dwindled populations in the early spring.
“Historically the rate of loss of bees over the winter used to be around 10% to 15%,” Gratton tells the broadcaster. “So, when we’re seeing rates that are twice that high, that’s a cause of concern and clearly there’s something going on.”
He says Varroa mites have hurt bee populations throughout the state, but increased pesticide use in agriculture and a decline in native wildflowers have also taken a toll on the bee population.
“Anything that can help them kind of recoup those losses, rebuild those colonies is probably going to be an important aspect to keeping that sector financially viable into the future,” Gratton says.