Honey Money

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Florida is the third largest honey producer in the U.S., yielding more than 20 million pounds of honey last year. That's worth more than $20 million, but the state's honey industry is threatened by environmental and economic factors.

Mites, hurricanes and the flood of cheap imported honey has pushed the state's honey producers and packers to the brink of economic disaster. That's why Florida's agricultural commission came up with a new marketing cooperative to promote the industry.

They hope to raise awareness about Florida honey and its value as a distinct product.

"I think that it will help if they promote different varieties of honey, that they don't just promote honey as all honey being the same because every honey is different, it has it's own taste, color and variety."

The main honey produced by LL Lanier and sons is tupelo honey, which is produced in a unique fashion. The tupelo tree blossoms for only two weeks of the year, but it produces a specialty honey that is unlike any other.

It's not heated and is healthier than other types of honey, but they still make mixed honey and the cheaper imports, make it costly to sell.

"The tupelo honey that's produced in these apiaries is unique and that provides them with a niche in the market. Some of the other producers in Florida aren't so lucky and that makes it hard for them to make a profit."

"Producing our mixed honey, we call it amber honey or red honey, you can't produce it for what they want to pay you for it, the big honey companies. You see, I don't bottle it, all A bottle is tupelo; the other used to kind of pay the bills and all, but it won't do that anymore."

The foreign imports are sold at 25 to 50 percent below Florida prices, squeezing many producers out of the market. Some producers make up their profits in pollination, but Lanier says he's concerned about insecticides killing his bees if he moves them.

For now he'll stick to what he's known all his life, making this very unique and delicious tupelo honey.

Lanier says mites and mosquito pesticides are the most dangerous to his business, but others who produce only mixed honey are greatly effected by foreign imports.