Believe it or not, the small honey bee actually makes a huge impact in the United States. But since the 1940s, honeybee populations have been steadily decreasing across the country, from an estimated 6 million managed honeybee colonies to under 3 million in more recent years. The bees’ dwindling population could threaten billions of dollars in fruit, vegetable, and nut crops. So, what is being done to support businesses that raise honeybees? Subsidies, which provide funding in hopes of boosting the bee population.
What is a subsidy?
Governments offer subsidies to stimulate certain sectors of the economy. If you are looking to start a beekeeping business, or any business, it is important to understand what subsidies are and how they work.
The government provides subsidies, or financial grants, to both private and public businesses to not only stimulate the economy, but to also promote activities that could benefit the public. They are meant to encourage companies to undertake business-related activities and ventures that government sees are in the public’s best interest. Subsidies are provided on many levels, including state, federal, and national governments. Even though the United States is a free market, direct subsidies provided by the government can impact market prices and economic growth.
Government subsidies come in many forms, but there are five main categories that they can be grouped with. Those subsidies include:
- Export Subsidies are used to support companies that are exporting goods from the United States to a different country.
- Oil Subsidies are granted by the government to drive down the price of oil for consumers.
- Housing Subsidies provide programs that give citizens more opportunities to buy their own home, through down payment assistance or interest rate help.
- Healthcare Subsidies provide citizens help through programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
- Agriculture Subsidies are designed to stabilize food prices, as well as make sure that supply and demand keep pace with each other.
As a beekeeper, there may be agriculture subsidies available to you to help keep your colonies healthy and pollinating their surrounding area.
How do subsidies help beekeepers?
Because of the falling numbers of honeybees in the United States, the federal government has made grant funds available to beekeepers, either through individual states or directly to keepers. Several of these subsidies exist, and include:
Farmers Market Promotion Program
In an effort to provide more locally produced agricultural goods, the United States government gives grants through the Farmers Market Promotion Program. With awards ranging anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000, for beekeepers, this program benefits small groups of farmers who produce honey and sell it directly to consumers. This grant is available in all the 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., and other territories protected by the U.S.
USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program
Small, rural, non-profit businesses are also eligible for funding in the form of subsidies from the U.S. government. Through the USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program, beekeepers can be awarded up to $500,000 to purchase the land and equipment they need for their business. However, some rules apply. The business must be a non-profit or private corporation with less than 50 employees,be located in a rural area outside of a city with a population of 50,000 or more and make less than $1 million in revenue each year. This grant is provided through local USDA Rural Development offices.
USDA Conservation Innovation Grants
Several states, including Texas, are eligible for a funding through the USDA Conservation Innovation Grants. If you live in one of the states where this grant is available, you must be using innovation in your operations. That could include getting creative with boosting production on farms or ranches, and improving water quality, soil health and the habitat. Each state has its own application process.
Because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken an interest in rebuilding America’s bee population, apiaries, or bee farms, are considered specialty crops. Therefore, there are many other programs beekeepers can take advantage of to help with the economics of raising bees.
How do I receive subsidies?
Each grant program has its own application process. As you research which programs your apiary might be eligible for, you will also need to take notes on whether you apply locally, at the state level, or at the federal level. If approved, your subsidy can come in several forms, including:
- Cash Subsidies
- Tax Concessions
- Assumptions of Risk
- Government Purchase Policies
- Stock Purchases
Whether you are an established apiary, or just starting on your beekeeping venture, knowing the economics, and having a business strategy will be important to your success. Applying for and receiving grants can be a challenging process, so seeking advice from other local beekeepers may help you to know what grants are available in your area, and how to get them.