Generally accepted agricultural and management practices for honey bees
The 2022 Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) for the Care of Farm Animals include new recommendations for managing honey bees.
Michigan beekeepers who generate some income from their beekeeping activities each year are protected under the Right to Farm Act, just like other farmers and ranchers. The Right to Farm Act provides the same process for beekeepers to mitigate nuisance complaints made through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) as any other farming operation. If a beekeeper receives a nuisance complaint, MDARD can respond and evaluate the activities of the beekeeper to determine if they are following the Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs), which if followed, can act as an affirmative defense in the event of a nuisance lawsuit. The GAAMPS are designed to protect farmers who have communities developing around them and to help guide farmers in being good neighbors in their communities.
There are currently eight different GAAMPs, including manure management, irrigation and even farm markets. Everything pertaining to beekeeping can be found in the GAAMPs for the Care of Farm Animals. The GAAMPs for honey bee care include recommendations to deter bees from becoming a nuisance to others and to ensure that the honey bees are getting the care that they require. The recommendations outlined in the GAAMPs are not regulations or laws, but they do provide guidance on caring for honey bees and reducing disturbance to nearby properties.
A beekeeper does not have to wait until a complaint to determine if they are following all the recommendations outlined in the GAAMPS. Beekeepers can request MDARD to proactively identify if they are following the practices outlined in the GAAMPs. While adherence to the GAAMPs does not act as a complete barrier to complaints or lawsuits, it does provide an affirmative defense from nuisance litigation. Because the GAAMPs are written under state law, which takes precedence over local ordinance, a beekeeper’s placement of beehives may be allowable where local organizations say otherwise. In addition to conformance to the GAAMPs, beekeepers also need to comply with all state and federal environmental and agricultural laws.
Each of the GAAMPs is reviewed every year, a process that includes committees of scientific advisors, many from Michigan State University, and other individuals that represent the agricultural industry. Each year the committee meets to review the previous year’s GAAMPs. They revise their sections based on new articles or resources in the scientific literature, input from the industry, and the previous year’s nuisance complaints. The committee submits changes in the summer, and the revision is then available for public comment. After all the comments are received, the committee works to incorporate public input. In the fall, the GAAMPs advisory committee chairperson presents the proposed GAAMPs to the Michigan Commission of Agricultural and Rural Development (MCARD), which will either approve or deny changes for the upcoming year.
If you would like to comment or provide recommendations on the honey bee section or any of the GAAMPs, you can contact the Right to Farm Program at MDARD-RTF@Michigan.gov or visit their Right to Farm website.
Remember that the purpose of the GAAMPs is to have measurable guidelines that MDARD uses to investigate complaints. It is not designed to cover all policy aspects of beekeeping in Michigan. If you are interested in other policies or recommendations, consider working with the Michigan Beekeepers’ Association‘s legislative committee.
If you have questions on the Michigan Right to Farm act, or if you would like to request a GAAMPs assessment, please contact:
Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Right to Farm Program
P.O. Box 30017
Lansing, MI 48909
Phone: 517-284-5619, 877-632-1783
Acknowledgment: Thank you to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for reviewing and contributing language for this article.