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Beekeepers, seedless mandarin growers at odds over hives
« on: April 08, 2007, 08:53:58 PM »

Didn't this happen in California also. Yup it did.
because of possible subscription issue the article is copied below.


Beekeepers, seedless mandarin growers at odds over hives
Hive placement puts citrus at risk for cross-pollination

Cecilia Parsons
Capital Press Staff Writer

This range war is becoming a little sticky.

Just as citrus blossoms are bursting open throughout the San Joaquin Valley, beekeepers and seedless mandarin growers have made little headway in resolving their differences over hive placement adjacent to citrus varieties vulnerable to cross-pollination.

Although several meetings have been held recently in hopes of reaching a compromise, beekeepers have remained adamant about their right to place hives where they have permission from landowners.

With the bloom period imminent in the most productive citrus belt in the nation, growers of seedless mandarins are mostly powerless at protecting their crop from being pollinated by bees. Pollination of those varieties can result in seeded fruit which significantly lowers market value.

As more acres of the popular seedless varieties come into production, the problem will only worsen, said Joel Nelsen, president of the grower trade organization California Citrus Mutual. He expressed little hope that the issue would be resolved this spring.

The issue surfaced last year after Paramount Farms, which has large plantings of seedless mandarins in Kern County, threatened to sue beekeepers that placed hives near their property.

The popular, easy-to-peel varieties called Clementines and W. Murcott must be planted where there are no seeded varieties close by, or cross-pollination with seeded varieties must be averted by keeping bees out of the groves.

Nelsen said he believes the citrus industry has presented a reasonable compromise to beekeepers.

"We're going for reduced risk; too many commercial hives too close is the problem, so if we reduced the populations of bees with access to mandarins we're not preventing placement if they locate them far enough away," said Nelsen, noting that the bloom season is only four weeks long.

With 10,000 to 12,000 more acres of seedless citrus coming into production in the next couple of years, resolving the problem quickly is critical, he said.

So far, he said, beekeepers have rebuffed all solutions offered by the citrus industry.

Fred Berry with Mulholland Citrus noted that crop patterns have changed in recent years, and as the popularity of the seedless citrus varieties has increased, there are fewer places to plant them where they are isolated from seeded varieties.

Gary Kunkel, Tulare County's agricultural commissioner, is one of the guys in the middle of the controversy. He sits on a citrus advisory board, but he also will be charged with enforcing any rules that could be enacted regarding bee placement.

He described the situation as polarized.

Beekeepers have expressed that they do not want any restrictions on where they can place their hives. The "no-fly zone" solution offered by the citrus industry last fall was not feasible according to Gene Brandi of the California State Beekeepers Association.

Brandi said some growers spoke up at the recent meeting in Tulare County and said they were opposed to limiting bee placement.

"A lot of folks were questioning the wisdom of keeping bees away. Some of them want the bees on their property. There are some varieties of citrus that benefit from pollination," Brandi said. Traditionally, if beekeepers do not own property adjacent to citrus, they make arrangements with landowners to place their hives. Some of those arrangements are so long standing, beekeepers have established their shops and honey processing facilities nearby.

The state's largest agricultural organization has also weighed in on the issue.

Tricia Stevers, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau said her organization and the California Farm Bureau Federation opposed any state mandated restrictions on bee placement because it infringes on property rights.

"We respect the citrus industry's position, but we would prefer an internal solution to the problem; legislation is not the route," said Stevers referring to a draft document from California Citrus Mutual, which was seeking a 2-mile buffer zone around citrus at the growers' request.

She said the Farm Bureau and the state are supporting attempts to reach a solution without legislation.

Brandi said that as the bloom season unfolds, he expects upwards of 300,000 colonies of bees to be placed in the citrus belt. The dry winter has limited natural bee forage, he said, and beekeepers are turning to citrus for feed.

Cecilia Parsons is based in Ducor. Her e-mail address is cparsons@capitalpress.com.

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