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US: Right-To-Farm Issue Pitting Beekeepers Against Citrus Growers

The seeds of controversy have filtered into several valley orchards. Now the state is looking into solving an uneasy co-existence between mandarin growers and beekeepers. The mandarins in one Woodlake orchard are shaping up nicely. They won`t be harvested until January. But Chris Lange doesn`t like what he sees in this early survey of his w-murcotts, a seedless variety he`s grown for five years.

`From a grower`s standpoint you hope there aren`t any seeds but unfortunately you can see we have seeds in this particular piece of fruit,` says Lange. Lange blames cross-pollinating bees that were set within half a mile of his orchard. `The bee growers get the benefit of the citrus pollen and of course we sometimes face the consequences of seeds,` he says.

Steve Godlin has been in the beekeeping business for 30 years and has always set his bees near orange groves. `It`s a premium honey, premium good honey and our biggest money-maker.` In the spring some mandarin growers went so far as placing nets over their trees to keep bees away. The seedless varieties command a much higher price.
Some citrus producers want laws established to keep bees from being placed too close to mandarin groves. Godlin says you can`t force beekeepers out of areas they`ve always worked. `Relocate guys in suitable places. Help us find a new home; you`re uprooting something that`s been our whole practice.`

Governor Schwarzenegger is considering an assembly bill that would require growers and beekeepers to establish some kind of working agreement with each other. If a consensus is not reached by June, it may fall on the shoulders of State Ag Secretary A.G. Kawamura to adopt regulations.

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