Exemptions from some state taxes enjoyed by beekeepers are due to expire this July unless a bill now before the Legislature becomes law.

House Bill 1558 would repeal the expiration date for the sales and business and occupation tax exemptions for beekeepers. And, the bill would add a new exemption on the purchase of honey bee food.

Rep. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, is sponsoring the measure, which would remove the expiration date indefinitely.

“Honey bees are crucial for agriculture — especially seed crops and fruit trees,” Warnick said in a news release. “We depend on them to pollinate buds into apples, pears and peaches.”

The cost of the exemptions to the state is about $67,000 a year. “This is a small price to pay to ensure the abundance of crops in our state continue to grow,” she said.

Warnick said a constituent brought the proposal to her, concerned about increased costs on the nearly 300 apiarists and bee brokers in the state.

“Many beekeepers don’t even need to buy food for the bees, but sometimes natural bee food is scarce and beekeepers need a way to keep the bees alive,” Warnick said.

An amendment was made to the bill to link the purposes of the incentive to the impacts of colony collapse disorder. A honey bee workgroup would be established to address challenges to the industry and report back to the Legislature by the end of the calendar year. Since 1993, bees have been disappearing globally at an alarming rate, and exactly why isn’t clear. In the U.S., bee colonies have plunged from nearly 3.6 million in 1989 to about 2.4 million in 2007, according to the federal Department of Agriculture.

Yakima is the site of research on extending bees’ life and averting the disorder. Washington State University and Eric Olson’s Honey in Gleed are studying the issue.

The House Finance Committee has recommended the bill, which is now in the House Rules Committee, where a determination will be made about giving it a full vote on the House floor.