ABF in Portland 1996 --Has the Federation Come Full Circle?




Malcolm T Sanford



            The last American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) meeting in Portland, Oregon was in 1969.  It was a momentous one according to all accounts.  For it marked the secession of a cadre of members that became the American Honey Producers Association (AHPA).  Ever since then, this group has vied with the Federation for the hearts, minds and dues of the United States beekeeper.  The division resulted in two national associations walking the halls of the nation’s capital, each seeking to represent a very small beekeeping industry, but often with a different message.  It took a long time and common foe, Chinese honey, to finally get both groups to cooperate once again.  This culminated in the successful anti-dumping suit that almost doubled the price of bulk honey.  Only time will tell, however, whether this auspicious beginning, a celebration of elevated honey prices in Portland in 1996, will bring the Federation full circle culminating in a reunion with the AHPA.


            The welcome to Oregon was given by the Commissioner of Agriculture, Bruce Andrews.  He proclaimed that agriculture is alive and well in the northwest; it is 21 percent of the state GNP and 17 percent of the federal GNP.  Change is in the wind, however, and there is a major shift from traditional agriculture, according to Commissioner Andrews, toward value-added products.  Asia is the focus of northwestern agriculture with a population that is young, growing larger and becoming more wealthy.  And potential political change, the Commissioner told the participants, could be far reaching.  The key thing to be concerned about, he warned, is to define what changes are harmful to agriculture .  In a preview of what the key note speaker was to say, he concluded that in the haste to revamp government, beekeepers and others in agriculture should be careful not to scuttle the federal research and education efforts that have served them so well.


            In his address, President David Sundberg described the optimism that higher-than-usual honey prices were creating in the industry.  An example, he said,  was attendance at this convention, the 53rd in the Federation’s history.  There were over 400 pre registered and more exhibits (50 total; many never before present) than at any previous meeting.  In addition, he stated that the Federation was meeting jointly with both the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and the National Honey Packers and Dealers Association in a cvontinuing effort to integrate the efforts of all industry groups.


            Although the anti-dumping suit showed that all beekeepers could work together, Mr. Sundberg said, the effort was not over.  Maintenance fees of $10,000 a quarter are needed to ensure that the ruling is enforced.  The agreement requires constant monitoring by a private law firm, or all those efforts that have gone before will be for naught he said.  And the industry cannot rest on its laurels as there are pressing concerns on other fronts.  Of specific importance is honey adulteration, according to Mr. Sundberg.  This practice could easily negate all gains made on the anti-dumping fund case.  Finally, he echoed Commissioner Andrews’ words concerning the need to continue to lobby in Washington to support bee research and other services that the federal government provides to beekeepers.


            Given the attention by previous speakers to the unprecedented changes in Washington and their possible effects on the beekeeping industry, it was fitting that Dr. Hachiro Shimanuki give the keynote address.  A native of Hawaii, educated at the University of Hawaii and then Iowa State University, Dr. Shimanuki (affectionately called “Shim”) has given thirty years of service to the bee industry.  He is currently Research Leader at the Beltsville, MD Bee Laboratory the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).  Dr. Shimanuki began by saying that professionals in research, education or extension and regulation are dependent on the health of the beekeeping industry.  Thus, in these times it will be important that all these groups work together in order to maintain the industry in its present position as one of the best in the world.


            With reference to research, he listed accomplishments of the Agricultural Research Service.  These efforts have provided the beekeeping industry with many advantages over the last seven decades, starting with development of instrumental insemination in the 1920s at the Beltsville, MD.  This technique has been modified over the years and is a vital part of honey bee breeding programs all over the world.


            A partial list of other research efforts described by Dr. Shimanuki include:


1)  The use of fumagillin to control nosema disease was

conducted by USDA and industry scientists at the Madison, WI ARS Laboratory, no longer in operation.  This material identified and tested about forty years ago is still being used worldwide, nothing better has been found for nosema.


2)  Tests to detect adulteration of honey by high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) were developed by Dr. Jack White and his colleagues at the USDA Eastern Utilization Center in Philadelphia, PA.  The Honey Industry Council offered to pay the salary of one scientist if USDA did the same  Additionally, the FDA paid for the salary of one scientist.  The ABF then sought voluntary contributions for what was then called the Honey Defense Fund which was administered by the Honey Industry Council.  The USDA used redirected funds to pay part of the costs; even came from money set aside for research on maple syrup.  The results of these efforts are history  Two tests for the detection of honey adulteration are still being used by the honey industry today.


3)  Research identifying menthol as a candidate compound for the control of tracheal mite was the result of a cooperative research program between the USDA and the University of Bologna in Italy.  This was initiated in the mid sixties by the USDA, with the Beltsville lab as the lead laboratory.  Later, research leading to the registration of menthol for the US beekeeping industry was conducted jointly by the USDA bee laboratories in Weslaco, TX and Beltsville, MD.  At its peak, menthol crystal use exceeded 50 tons a year.  For research leadership on the control of parasitic mites, the USDA awarded both teams headed by Bill Wilson and Dr. Shimanuki an award for technology transfer.


4)  The antibiotic extender patty was developed by Dr. Wilson while he was stationed at the USDA bee laboratory in Laramie, WY.  It was originally used to control

American foulbrood, but is now also being used to control honey bee tracheal mite.


4) When Varroa jacobsoni was first discovered in the US, two USDA agencies, APHIS and ARS, cooperated jointly in obtaining an emergency registration for the use of fluvalinate-impregnated wooden strips.  Later, scientists from the USDA and the University of Florida cooperated with Zooecon in developing fluvalinate-impregnated plastic strips for treating beehives, package shipping cages and queen cages.


5)  Insect Pollination of Cultivated Crop Plants is a book without equal.  Mr. S. E McGregor, Chief of the USDA Apiculture Research Branch was awarded time off to write this important book in Tucson, AZ.  Some twenty years later it remains the best reference on commercial honey bee pollination, and is still routinely requested by both beekeepers and growers.


6)  The ARS-YC-1 bee stock shown to be resistant to tracheal mite was developed jointly by Yugoslavian and USDA scientists at the Baton Rouge Bee Laboratory.  This stock is being used by several breeders and the lab continues its investigations on this essential topic


7)  The first computer assisted morphometric program was

developed by scientists from the University of California-Berkeley.  This research was supported by funds from the USDA Systematic Entomology Laboratory in Beltsville, MD and the University of California.  It is the basis for the official identification of the Africanized honey bee.


8)  ARS and university researchers have also made many contributions in support of regulatory agencies, especially IR-4 on the registration of labels for minor use chemicals.  These include the much of the basic information on resmethrin, Bacillus thurengiensis, ethylene oxide, paradichlorobenzene and now formic acid.  In addition, ARS helps write and review labels for both the EPA and FDA. 


Dr. Shimanuki also pointed out that university counterparts have also contributed to research in a number of areas.  Besides those mentioned above in California-Berkeley and Florida, for example, a quick test for screening for tracheal mite resistant honey bees was developed by scientists at the University of California-Davis.  This test is being used by scientists in Canada and the U.S. for identifying tracheal mite resistant stocks.


Each citizen in the United States contributes less than $.02 per year to bee research, DR. Shimanuki said.  This is a bargain,, but research is under attack on many fronts.  It is at an historical low point and there are signs it might slip further.  There were 20 bee scientists working for ARS bee research in 1963, Dr. Shimanuki said.  Now, although 24 are currently employed, two vacancies are expected that will probably not be filled and the future of the rest is not clear.  Historically, the highest number of bee researchers has been about 30.  It takes a good deal of money to support a scientist, according to Dr. Shimanuki, and this gets more expensive each year.  Already the industry has lost two laboratories and no new dollars have come into bee research in a very long time.  Instead, the ARS has re-directed its efforts from existing programs to those that are more pressing .  Beyond funding requirements, however, there are other things that take away from the research efforts, including having to educate new administrators on a regular basis.


            Federal research has also had to take some of the educational or extension load, Dr. Shimanuki said.  One reason for this is the reorganization of the United States Department of Agriculture combining both Cooperative Extension and the Cooperative States Research Service.  The federal extension effort held down by Dr. Jim Tew for over a decade has also been lost along with others at the state level.  There have been some encouraging educational developments at the state level, according to Dr. Shimanuki.  One is a shift in the role of inspectors from simply being regulators to becoming more service and education oriented.  However, the results are mixed; some states have abandoned their apiary inspection programs altogether and most others have reduced efforts in this arena.


            The challenge for the beekeeping industry at the national level, Dr. Shimanuki concluded, will be to conserve research and extension programs already in place.  The key questions being asked by administrators in all areas are whether efforts are being duplicated and if problems of national concern are being addressed.  Only beekeepers, through organizations like the Federation, will be able to answer these by communicating them to their elected officials.  He concluded his remarks by saying that two cents was not much to ask of every citizen in the United States to ensure a healthy beekeeping industry.  But if the beekeeping industry wished to maintain this level of support in the future, it would have to continue to educate its elected representatives and the public about the value of honey bees to the U.S. food supply.


            In an experimental change of form, the Federation program adjourned the program to the nearby exhibit area.  This provided vendors and others the opportunity to show their wares.  In this first session, a panel convened on wood vs plastic use in foundation.  And new products were also shown to participants by vendors.


            The afternoon session convened with George Hansen, who addressed the topic Beekeeping in Oregon.  The state is known for its unpredictable weather, according to Mr. Hansen.  This was evident to those attending the convention as a large storm blew in from the Pacific bringing unpredicted snow to Portland, but fortunately not the 60 mile-per-hour winds that forecasters projected.  Those going on a “sightseeing” trip to Columbia gorge wound up seeing very little except snow.  In spite of all its rainfall, there are a large number of irrigated plots in Oregon, according to Mr. Hansen.  A rain shadow results in almost all precipitation dropping west of the mountains, leaving eastern Oregon almost a desert.  Beekeeping is also being affected by urban development and a shift to monocultural agriculture.


            Honey production in Oregon has never been very good, averaging 49 pounds per colony, Mr. Hansen said.  With some 52,000 colonies, this puts the crop at 1,160,000 pounds.  This low average is the result of the variable weather conditions.  High humidity and colony movement also puts a lot of stress on bees.  It is often too cold to effectively use menthol for tracheal mites and colonies must be treated for Varroa each season.  As a consequence, Mr. Hansen said, winter loss in 1994 averaged 21 to 25 percent.


            Pollination has become big business in Oregon, according to Mr. Hansen.  Circular irrigation in arid regions and hybrid seed cultivation are the reasons.  Like elsewhere, wild bees in gums and other nesting sites have been eliminated by Varroa and pesticides.


            Another driving force in pollination is the California almond crop.  Almost all Oregon pollinating units move to that state each year, putting enormous stress on the bees, according to Mr. Hansen.  This puts the beekeeper at odds with nature as California demands large colonies very early, something not easy to do in Oregon’s climate.  Nevertheless, Oregon beekeepers are learning to move efficiently and manage uniformity in their outfits.  The former activity is key because many crops (sweet cherries, apples) require quick moves in and out of the orchard.


            The emphasis on hybrid seed pollination in Oregon has created new opportunities for beekeepers, according to Mr. Don Schnack.  After retiring from the Navy, Mr. Schnack , a former beekeeper , became the pollination coordinator for Central Oregon Seed Co.  Most of his activity is in the “high and dry” country where he coordinates pollination on 2,000 acres.  In 1979, there were only 29 acres under similar cultivation.  Almost 40 percent of the business is in hybrid carrot seed.  The resulting carrots are grown out and air freighted to Europe.  It’s the beekeeper’s pollinating activities, however, that have “put it all together,” according to Mr. Schnack.  But there has been a price, giving up some of the honey crop in the process.  As pollination coordinator, he insists that beekeeper cooperators be on 48-hour call and also that bees be located on both sides of a field and not in a straight line which promotes drifting.


            In some situations, there are extraordinary things required of cooperating beekeepers according to Mr. Schnack.  In onion pollination, setting only the king umble is needed, and, therefore, 4 to 5 colonies per acre are required, coupled with a quick move out once this is accomplished.  Although there are problems with colony placement and pesticide application , Mr. Schnack said, he sees the pollination business continuing to grow.  Some 8,000 colonies were rented in 1995, resulting in pollination fees of $300,000, up from a total rental of only 182 colonies in 1982.  And all this activity is done without a contract, only on a handshake.  The beekeeper continues to be the key to the specialty agriculture of the area according to Mr. Schnack.  He sees his job as continuously putting out that message that without managed pollination, there will be no crop.


            Mr. Bob Cox, President of the Apiary Inspectors of America, next addressed the changing role of the bee inspector.  Bee inspection originally was legislated to control American foulbrood, Mr. Cox said.  The first bee law was passed in 1877 in San Bernadino County, California.  Some twelve states had bee laws by the 1920s.  In 1922, the Federal Honey Bee Act was passed.  It may be time, Mr. Cox said, to revisit this law.  Much has happened since then and there are many more concerns now than American foulbrood.  These include not Varroa and tracheal mites, but also viruses and the Africanized honey bee.  Many of these are worldwide in importance as well, Mr. Cox said, even accounting for a new journal, Bee Biz, first published this fall.


            American foulbrood and mite problems appear to be under control at present, according to Mr. Cox.  However, there are concerns about development of alternative treatments should resistance develop.  And bee inspection is becoming less regulatory in nature and taking on more of an informing and educating role, as noted earlier by Dr. Shimanuki.  Concrete examples of this were the AIA booth and the traveling smoker exhibition of Texas bee inspector, Paul Jackson, both on display in the exhibit hall at Portland.


            Bee inspectors have also become more involved in research, Mr. Cox said, as shown by efforts in Florida, Nebraska and elsewhere to help in developing registration for current techniques to control mites.  No doubt the bee inspection service will continue to evolve in other ways as time goes on, Mr. Cox said, echoing Dr. Shimanuki’s comments in his keynote address.  It will be up to the beekeeper, through organizations like the Federation, to continue to support and guide the efforts of this service in the future.  To be better informed, he invited the audience to attend as many sessions of the AIA meeting as possible since it was meeting in Portland concurrently with the Federation.


            Coping with the future changes demanded in modern beekeeping was the theme of this reporter’s talk entitled:  “A View of Beekeeping Beyond 1996.”  Change in beekeeping has been relatively slow over the years, considering that most major beekeeping innovations occurred before 1900.  However, there has been a rapid increase in rate of change, especially since the 1950s.  These include introduction of antibiotics, maturation of bee inspection services, and the numerous advances brought by bee research as mentioned by Dr. Shimanuki.  Things picked up in the 1970s, with development of high fructose corn syrup as both bee food and honey adulterant and the rapid advance of the Africanized bee into Central America.  The 1980s saw the introduction of first tracheal mites, then Varroa, with all the attendant problems of controlling these parasites by placing chemicals inside a living beehive.


            The Africanized honey bee moved into the U.S. in the 1990s, honey adulteration again became a major issue, the antidumping suit was filed and won and a “new” disease, bee parasitic mite syndrome, was defined.  In addition, the pollination scene has been turned upside down with many farmers demanding services due to a Varroa-decimated feral honey bee population.  All this, in conjunction with major new ways information is handled via the Internet and World Wide Web, will continue to change the face of beekeeping in the future.  For further analysis of these changes, see the February article in these pages on the Minnesota Honey Producers seminar.


            Jim Bach, Washington State Apiarist, discussed his ideas on evaluating colony behavior as a predictor of colony survival.  Mr. Bach said that in a historical context beekeepers are experiencing more and more colony losses.  His investigations into this phenomenon reveal some consistent behaviors which appear to correlate with colonies not surviving stressful periods, especially winter.  Analyzing these is a “thinking process,” according to Mr. Bach, and beekeepers and others should be continually asking themselves why these are occurring and what can be done about them.


A partial list of these include:


1)  Bees appear nervous and are running excessively on comb.

2)  Bees are scenting more than normal.

3)  Bees are making lots of noise, in excess of 85 decibels in some cases.

4)  Bees are clustering off the brood.

5)  Bees are making more irregular comb cells and “hybrid”, a mixture of drone and worker size brood cappings.

6)  Queens are laying eggs scattered all over the comb.

7)  Colonies are dwindling down even when there is honey in supers.

8)  Bees are absconding in February.

9)  Bees are not feeding brood and showing symptoms of bee parasitic mite syndrome.


            These conditions appear to be cumulative in colonies, according to Mr. Bach.  They should be recognized for what they are, vital indicators of whether or not colonies will survive temperate winters


            At the end of the first day, the session again shifted to the exhibits area. where Jack Thomas discussed new products and a demonstration by Pat Kuehl took place.  That evening there was the traditional orientation for new Federation members and the popular Honey Queen Quiz Bowl.


            The second day of the meeting in Portland began with a discussion by Dr. Bill Wilson, Acting Research Leader at the ARS Research Unit in Weslaco. on possible alternative mite treatments that might be rotated with Apistan®.  He focused on the possible use of natural products, including neem (from the neem tree of India), tobacco, citral, thymol, clove oil menthol and formic acid.  The latter appears to have the best chance of becoming a registered control, Dr. Wilson said, however, it is not as easy to use and deliver as fluvalinate formulated as Apistan®.


            A big problem Dr. Wilson said is the current inability to test mites for resistance to any chemical.  Without such a test, it is difficult to say when a material might be loosing its effectiveness.  The research dollars to develop this test are simply not there.  Dr. Frank Eischen, now on temporary employment at Weslaco is interested in doing this work, and has pursued it to some extent.  However, he has no formal funding and may have to abandon it concluded Dr. Wilson.


            Kerry Clark, Apiculture Specialist from British Columbia, Canada next discussed his country’s experiences using formic acid to control parasitic mites.  Use of this material began in 1990 for both tracheal mites and Varroa.  Unfortunately, it still doesn’t have a major corporate sponsor to provide a uniform product.  As a consequence, the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA) asked for a temporary exemption to use the material Mr. Clark said.  Formic acid is a naturally occurring material found in the hive and in honey.  In Canada, four to six applications are required over a fairly long time period of time.  The chemical is highly temperature dependent, as well as being a contact poison and so a risk to the beekeeper Mr. Clark said.  Several innovative application methods have been tried to deliver formic acid, Mr. Clark concluded, including impregnated meat juice bags and various gels.


            A good deal more research is still needed on formic acid in Canada, according to Mr. Clark.  Meanwhile, many beekeepers are looking forward to a transition to resistant stock, if and when it can be identified and propagated.


            Dr. Shimanuki again addressed the convention about viruses and honey bees.  A good many viruses have been identified in honey bees.  These include sacbrood, chronic paralysis and others.  Many are not harmful, and they seem to pop up here and there.  For example, bees in both New Zealand and Australia (free of Varroa themselves) have Kashmir bee virus, one that is found in Apis cerana, the original host to Varroa.  This virus has also been found in U.S. bees.


            The introduction of parasitic mites in the U.S. has muddled the issue because these mites may activate viruses through their feeding behavior that punctures the bee’s cuticle.  Thus, although the viruses may always have been present, the mites make it much more likely honey bee colonies will become symptomatic.  It is this juxtaposition of mites and viruses, Dr. Shimanuki said, and the associated mixed symptoms now seen in many bee colonies reminiscent of foulbrood, viruses and other maladies, that has led to diagnosis of what the Beltsville lab calls bee parasitic mite syndrome (BPMS)


            Many questions remain about viruses, according to Dr. Shimanuki, and only one ARS scientist is working on this aspect of bee health at the Beltsville lab.  It is not known, for example, whether viruses multiply in bees, what activates them and if puncturing the cuticle is necessary to infect a bee.  Other more esoteric questions include whether bee eggs can be infected with viruses and what role general stress might play in development of these diseases.  In some cases, Dr. Shimanuki concluded, differences between certain viruses remain unknown.  It is possible the ones we may be calling different names may in fact be the same organism.


            The program venue shifted again to the exhibit hall where this reporter and Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, University of Montana, demonstrated the use of computers in beekeeping.  Dr. Bromenshenk was able to show the audience how to manipulate sounds and graphics using a portable computer.  He then dialed up the Internet provider and “surfed” to world wide web.  He accessed the APIS home page at the University of Florida, the beekeeping home page at the University of Washington, the GEARS site at the Bee Laboratory in Tucson, AZ and the Africanized bee home page at Texas A & M University.  Later Dr. Bromenshenk conducted another workshop showing how easy it is for beekeepers and others to develop a home page on the web.


            The afternoon session featured two speakers on the Africanized honey bee.  Dr. Jerry Loper at the ARS laboratory in Tucson, AZ discussed the Africanization of wild colonies in Arizona.  Africanization is rapidly taking place in Arizona and there have been several stinging incidents.  The Arizona bee industry has geared up to some degree to live with Africanization, Dr. Loper said, and this will continue for the foreseeable future.  A disquieting event was the movement taking shape in Arizona to ban honey bees in urban areas as a response to the Africanized honey bee.


            Dr. Bill Wilson next described the Texas experience with Africanized bees..  The insects continues to move very slowly northward.  In fact, they have confounded most predictions, having yet to arrive in Houston four years after introduction.  Why they are stalled is open to speculation, according to Dr. Wilson, but Varroa has no doubt played a role.  Contributing factors may also be that commercial beekeepers have been controlling their stock and fire departments and other agencies are systematically destroying feral nests.  Only time will tell, he said, where the Africanized honey bee will establish itself next in the Lone Star State.


            For the moment, however, Dr. Wilson said, the news hype is over and beekeepers remain in business.  Nevertheless, they don’t like the Africanized bee and its presence adds about 25 percent more overhead to operations.  The bottom line according to Dr. Wilson is that the bee remains unpredictable and beekeepers and others should stay away from it if they can.


            Dr. Jeff Pettis from Simon Frasier University in Canada spoke about his research on queen supersedure.  It appears that the kind and amount of brood present in the honey bee nest may act as a “switch” that turns on or off the supersedure impulse.  The supersedure event may, therefore, be what many insect ecologists call “density-dependent”.  As the amount of brood increases, the queen reduces her egg-laying and the colony then takes advantage of a window in time to replace its queen.


            Dr. Diana Sammataro, Ohio State University showed a video of tracheal mite “questing.”  This behavior allows mites to switch bees by mounting individual hairs and sticking out their legs in an effort to latch on to another, younger bee.  Many questions remain, she said, as to how mites actually affect colonies.  The possibilities include:  reduced air flow in the trachea or nutrient loss due to parasitization, increased muscle injury, altered metabolism and/or behavior, and poisoning due to toxins injected by mites or infection of viruses vectored by the parasites.  Until more is known for certain, she concluded, it will remain difficult to determine the most effective way to control the mites with respect to their most damaging behavior in the bee colony.


            In the meantime, Dr. Sammataro concluded, continuous exposure of vegetable oil patty does appear to work by perhaps confusing the mites during their “questing” activities.  This has led her to recommend the following integrated pest control technique against tracheal mite at least in Ohio:


1.  Requeen in the fall to ensure a prolific layer next spring.

2.  Try to reduce the number of foragers and drones in the fall that will be infested with mites .

3.  Use an extender patty with Terramycin in fall and spring to prevent infestation of young bees.


            A most interesting presentation followed in the exhibits area by Mr. Glenn Peters.  It was called the “Mr. Honeystix and the Honeystix Story.”  This product, honey packaged in plastic straws , allows beekeepers to sell their honey for anywhere from $11 to $17.00 per pound.  This unique candy is in high demand and is very profitable.  The production limitations present in the past have now been overcome and there is much more opportunity to obtain the product.  Beekeepers can buy the product outright from the firm or contract to have their own honey put into the plastic straws.


            Honeystix in ‘96 is the motto of Mr. Honeystix, according to Mr. Peters, who exhibited a huge mockup of a plastic straw crimped at both ends.  The candy has won some world class awards and, he concluded, it will be responsible for leading honey marketing into the 21st century.


            The biggest news in Portland, as previously stated, was the favorable ruling on the anti-dumping suit against the Peoples Republic of China (PRC).  Mr. Ed Yang, U.S. Department of Commerce, Import Administration, Office of Agreements Compliance addressed the Federation on this topic.  The ruling means that export limits from PRC are to be only 43,925,000 pounds per year.  Not only is the amount being restricted, but also the price.  The latter will be calculated every three months and will be based on 92 percent of a weighted average of prices from other exporting nations (Argentina, Mexico). 


            According to Mr. Yang, one advantage of the agreement is that much of the work will be done by the PRC in terms of compliance.  It will allocate quotas, report allocations, and issue certificates.  Most important, however, the PRC will also avoid circumvention by actively enforcing the agreement.  Mr. Yang said he was committed to enforcing the agreement, but also indicated that the Commerce Department had a very heavy work load.  He urged anyone with concerns or information on possible circumvention to contact him at 202/482-0406 or Lisa Yarborough at 202/482-2306.


            Mr. Paul Rosen of the law office that has been hired to pursue the anti-dumping suit then reported on his firm’s activities.  The anti-dumping ruling is valid for five years, he said, but is subject to review each year.  This action will be to ensure whether there is continued need for the order.  His firm is committed to contacting the Department of Commerce on a regular basis to monitor the agreement.  The possibility of circumvention is always there , Mr. Rosen said, and must be guarded against by constant vigilance.  This is the reason the industry is being asked to come up with the quarterly payments mentioned by President Sundburg in his opening remarks.


            There is a downside to honey price increases..  This is the increased incentive to purposefully adulterate the product.  In Portland, a distinguished panel of experts in honey marketing addressed the issue of “How Can We Assure Our Consumers of Our Honey’s Quality and Wholesomeness?”


            The stage was set by Dwight Stoller, chair of the Honey Quality Assurance Task Force, set up by the National Honey Packers and Dealers Association.  He introduced Dr. Jill Snowden, the National Honey Board’s scientific consultant in this area.  She addressed the issues of purity, standards and enforcement in the honey market today.


            The image of honey is unique, Dr. Snowden said, it must remain so at all costs.  The addition of adulterants is simply not acceptable.  It destroys the unique qualities that honey is known for and the basis for its appeal.  The bottomline, she concluded, is that it is much more difficult to repair the image should it be tarnished than to maintain the one that already exists in the minds of most consumers.


            Honey identity continues to be a problem, according to Dr. Snowden.  However, the National Honey Board (NHB) cannot determine this.  There is no universal agreement on standards, and they have to be based on sophisticated and expensive tests.  Thus, the NHB, is using its resources to improve the knowledge base on honey in the hopes that this investment will pay off in the future by helping establish a set of standards that all can live with.  Dr. Snowden passed out a summary of recent research on detection techniques for inexpensive sweeteners in honey.  The full paper is available to interested parties on request from the National Honey Board.


            In terms of enforcing the laws against honey adulteration, government cannot be the total answer, Dr. Snowden said.  Self-enforcement is also needed.  Ideally, this would be based on a set of values established by the industry.  Enforcement, also carries a risk of adverse publicity, according to Dr. Snowden.  There is nothing new in economic adulteration; it has always been there and will continue to be a threat as long as there is a honey industry, she said.  A permanent structural change based on goals and values is needed to reduce adulteration to a minimum.  Some of that is in place, Dr. Snowden said, but more needs to be done.  Finally, it is important to keep the perception of the product positive.  This means communicating the image of honey, instilling confidence in the product and taking initiative when there is a problem.


            The NHB is attempting to promote all three of the above concerns, Dr. Snowden concluded.  It does this through its “Pride” program which promotes total quality management or TQM in honey processing.  Ensuring purity, Dr. Snowden concluded, must take into consideration a wide variety of things, including developing trusting relationships (customer-packer-producer), establishing standards, using adequate testing procedures, and taking advantage all other available resources.


            Jerry Probst, Vice President for Research of the Sioux Honey Association echoed many of Dr. Snowden’s remarks.  No specific standards have been established in his 25 years of service to the industry, he said, but the FDA climate is changing and it may be possible now.  Unfortunately, he said, the typical composite definition doesn’t work for all product and a matrix approach setting limits is probably the best the industry can ask for.  Finally, he concluded that labs are available to do the testing, but need guidance by the industry on what to look for.  This is because the next generation of sources of adulteration and contamination are always just around the corner.


            Peter Martin of QP Services, Redding in the U.K. gave a European perspective.  Water, hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and pesticide residues are traditionally of concern.  Floral origin of honey and a consistent quality are also of prime interest to those on the “other side of the pond.”


            Several European initiatives are currently being conducted, according to Mr. Martin.  An outgrowth of the last Apimondia meeting in Switzerland is a concentration on the development of methods in honey analysis.  In addition, food authenticity issues are being discussed and testing protocols defined, and a honey institute composed of some 30,000 European beekeepers is in the works.


            Dick Sullivan, Executive Director of the Olive Oil Marketing Association provided some upbeat remarks concerning what his organization has been able to do, particularly in the foodservice and industrial foods sector.  Olive oil has some of the same problems associated with honey.  Communication of what you are doing to maintain purity and confidence in the product is the main factor that will provide a stable market for any product Mr. Sullivan concluded.


            Bob Brandi addressed the audience from what he called a “producer’s perspective.”  To keep honey a marketable item, he said, producers must ensure they are using treatments as the label directs.  In addition, the producer should strive to visit his packer and encourage as much sampling as possible.  This is especially true in the present climate where economic adulteration is high.  Finally, he concluded, that the Federation’s Honey Defense Fund was still in operation and should be used to its fullest extent.


            Troy Fore, Jr., Executive Secretary of the Federation, provided an appropriate footnote to this panel on ensuring purity of honey in the marketplace.  He reviewed the recent Groeb trial for purposeful adulteration which ended in an acquittal.  He concluded, that lack of an acceptable standard of identity for honey affected the outcome of the trial in several ways.  In particular, it raised considerable doubt in the mind of the jury about what constituted purposeful adulteration.


            Special interest groups concluded the Friday afternoon session.  These included those for package bees and queens, hobbyists and commercial beekeepers.  This reporter attended the latter session.  International forces driving the supply and demand for honey were detailed by Ms. Elyse Gagnon, Odem International, Montreal, Quebec.  Honey marketing statistics are disorganized and not readily available, however, some trends can be seen.  China has fewer hives and lower prices in the 1991-1994 period.  In addition, internal policies in China are driving some beekeepers out of business and many are abandoning migratory beekeeping.  Australia has been plagued with drought and production has been cut in half.  Mexican production is normal.  It now is Argentina, however, that is due to become the world’s major exporter as both Russia and China lose ground.  The world honey market, therefore, according to Ms. Gagnon is changing and the industry in the U.S. must keep abreast of these developments.


            David Hackenberg, the new vice president of the Federation, discussed the need for insurance by commercial beekeepers.  He showed what can go wrong when a truck full of bees overturns.  He warned beekeepers to carry adequate insurance as driving fatigue and other reasons can cause accidents at any time.


            Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk discussed his study into whether the new generation of microbial pesticides being developed had much effect on bee colonies.  So far, his research has shown that variants of Bacillus thurengiensis are not harmful to bees.  In addition he showed how his techniques have advanced from periodic assessment to “real time” monitoring, using portable computers.


            Dr. Oscar Coindreau presented his discussion of information on new developments regarding Apistan®.  He advocated using the product only as listed on the label and said that there was in force as .025 parts per million (ppm) on fluvalinate in honey.


            The final session of the convention in Portland featured a panel discussing what continued to be the keystone topic, effects of increased honey prices.  It was appropriately titled: “What Changes I See Ahead for My Business and The Honey Industry as a Result of Higher Honey Prices...”


            Although good for producers in general, Steve Smith of Miller’s Honey Company, said that although it was perceived as such, the anti-dumping suit might not be the most important reason for higher prices given the forces in China today.  The results of the suit, however, forced packers into a situation they had not experienced before, relying almost totally on U.S. supply.  For the first time, packers were concerned about getting product and this caused some shifts in policy.  This also, he said, resulted in some industrial suppliers being cut off for long periods of time waiting on the California honey crop.


            The unprecedented rapid increase in prices meant trouble for packers in a number of other areas, according to Mr. Smith.  First and foremost it resulted in extreme profit squeezing.  Shorter contract times, higher lines of credit and increased need for storage space also resulted.  Industrial customers cut down on buying honey and some cases went to other sweeteners, eliminating the product from their lines altogether.  Higher prices also provoke an increase in economic adulteration efforts, Mr. Smith concluded, especially considering the extreme difficulty in prosecuting any such case as shown in the Groeb trial.


            Pat Eakle of Dadant & Sons spoke on the long-range effects of prices on equipment suppliers.  They are provoking “cautious optimism,” he said, and there is hope they will result in more capital expenditures by beekeepers.  The situation may also stimulate others to enter the profession.  This short-range run up in prices, however, must be tempered by the fact that a stable environment is needed in the long run to put the industry back on a sound footing.  This requires a secure business atmosphere and the addition of new blood into beekeeping.  As a footnote, Mr. Eakle said the beeswax market had also experienced unprecedented increases in recent months which also will affect the long-term health of the beekeeping industry.


            Darrel Rufer of Waverly, MN discussed the producer’s perspective in the wave of price increases.  Although a rise in honey prices was helping, he said, those actively producing honey must also get deeper into marketing their own honey to promote a more stable business environment in the future.  As part of this, producers must keep abreast of the changing marketing mix and other cost shifts that are occurring.  Finally, he concluded that quality must be the overriding concern in producers’ minds as they begin preparations for the next honey producing season.


            Glenda Wooten, Wooten’s Queens, Palo Centro, CA concluded the panel discussion.  In 1986, Ms. Wooten said, after closure of the Canadian border, 85 percent of their queen business was lost.  It has been a long road back, but now there is a good environment for Wooten’s to expand.  She concluded that the industry must now bring in young beekeepers to keep up the momentum began by the recent price run up.


            The final day of the meeting in Portland (Saturday) featured the traditional educational workshops.  Topics included honey marketing, computer applications, honey pot collection, instrumental insemination, mite diagnosis, beeswax crafting and profiting from alternative hive products.  In addition, there was a three and a half hour program based on the motif began in Texas last year.  Children from areas schools were invited in to explore the world of honey bees.  Beekeepers from Oregon and elsewhere set up booths to show beekeeping equipment, honey cookery and other topics on apiculture.  The annual business meeting and traditional banquet concluded the Portland meeting.


            The next ABF convention is scheduled for January 14-19, 1997.  When the Federation meets by the sea in Norfolk, VA it will be instructive to see whether the changes in the beekeeping industry, proclaimed by many in Portland and promoted by rising prices, will have endured.