PEMBROKE — A bill passed by the state General Assembly to encourage the establishment of new beekeepers and beehives across North Carolina should pay sweet dividends.
So says Dennis Clark, a past president of the Robeson County Area Beekeepers Association, who believes the Beehive Grant Fund is the incentive that long has been needed to get people to become seriously involved in beekeeping. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Charles Graham, a Democrat from Lumberton.
“Since the fund has been set up we have seen a growing interest among our members in pursuing certification and increasing their current number of hives,” said the 73-year-old Clark, who lives in Pembroke.
Honeybees are quickly dying out, and their importance can’t be overemphasized, said Clark, who has been a beekeeper for the past nine years. One-third of the food that’s part of the diet of Americans depends on honeybee pollination. Honeybees provide 80 percent of pollination for vegetables, fruit, seed and flower crops.
“This is not just important,” said Clark. “It’s vital.”
Graham’s bill sets up a special fund to be administered by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Beekeepers certified by the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association can receive grants from the fund to purchase new hives, or to purchase materials or supplies for construction of new hives for their bees.
To get the fund rolling, the General Assembly allocated $25,000 in the current state budget. Both Graham and Clark have said this is just the beginning. The General Assembly will be requested to allocate additional money for future grants.
Applicants for the grants must be at least 18 years old and certified as beekeepers by the state association. A beekeeper must pass a written test and a practical test to be certified, Clark said.
Grants are awarded in the order that applications are approved. Grants are limited to $200 per new hive, with a recipient permitted up to $2,400 annually.
Clark commended Graham, who serves on the House Agriculture and Commerce committees, for his efforts in getting the legislation establishing the fund passed by the General Assembly.
Graham said Clark was instrumental in helping write the bill.
“We looked at this as a need where we could do something good for agriculture,” Graham said. “For new people interested in pursuing beekeeping this is an excellent opportunity.”
Clark said Friday that he is not aware of any grants yet being awarded to any of the state’s certified beekeepers, but expects that will change soon.
“That’s because word about the grants has not yet reached a majority of beekeepers,” he said. “When the word gets out, there will be a lot interest.”
Bob Shiles can be reaced at 910-416-5165.