Dawson-area resident Dave Nutt is a beginner beekeeper who does it for the hobby and the honey, not the money. But Nutt knows from other beekeepers that trying to sell honey at local farmers markets or elsewhere will mean government intrusion. And that isn't worth the hassle for him. State lawmakers and the group representing beekeepers hope to change that.
Dawson-area resident Dave Nutt is a beginner beekeeper who does it for the hobby and the honey, not the money.
He began beekeeping at the recommendation of a friend and his wife gave him his first starter kit. "I just got into it as a hobby," Nutt said.
But Nutt knows from other beekeepers that trying to sell honey at local farmers markets or elsewhere will mean government intrusion. And that isn't worth the hassle for him.
State lawmakers and the group representing beekeepers hope to change that.
They're pushing Senate Bill 2959 to prevent the Illinois Department of Public Health from regulating honey if the beekeeper produces less than 500 gallons of the sweet nectar each year. The measure could be considered Tuesday by a Senate committee.
Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said he decided to push the measure after being approached by the Illinois State Beekeepers Association.
Beekeeping is popular in Illinois. Statewide, beekeepers produced 448,000 pounds of honey in 2008 and 567,000 pounds the year before, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Luechtefeld said a majority of beekeepers who sell honey only sell small amounts at local farmers markets.
"What a lot of regulation does is it makes it almost impossible to do it," he said.
Beekeeper Mike Sabo of Prairie du Rocher, a Luechtefeld constituent, said officials with the beekeepers group decided to pursue the measure after complaints from keepers around the state about regulation.
The association went to the state Department of Public Health to get a break, but the agency said its hands were tied by current state law requiring inspections for hive owners who sell their product, Sabo said.
Sabo said some beekeepers sell enough honey to support their hobby but many do not. More than 80 percent of the 1,400-plus Illinois beekeepers have 10 hives or fewer, he said. He has six hives currently and notes it costs about $300 to buy a hive.
Beekeepers here modeled their measure after a law in Mississippi. Luechtefeld said he expects the measure to get supported here this year.
Kelly Jakubek, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health, said the agency is reviewing the bill and had no comment on it.
Matt Hopf can be reached at (217) 782-3095 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Honey by the numbers
A look at key numbers about beekeeping in Illinois, compiled by the state Department of Agriculture.
Registered beekeepers in Illinois
Number of hives
Number of colonies