Honey Laundering, A South Dakota Man's Fight
by Tom Hanson, Anchor
November 04, 2013 8:17 PM
At his farm in the small town of Bruce, South Dakota Richard Adee is long way from world of international smuggling, Homeland Security and Interpol, but it’s a part of his life, and not by choice.
Adee and his sons own one of the largest honey operations in the country, and to a small and greedy group of international traders, the honey has become a form of liquid gold.
Cheaply produced in China, it can be sold for enormous profit in the United States if they can get it by U.S. Customs without being caught.
Much to the frustration of Adee and other honey producers, scheme after scheme has made that possible.
As you see him working with bees you might be wondering why they aren't attacking the 78 year old as he takes apart these hives. Richard uses a little smoke and, well no mirrors just good old smoke. It puts bees in survival mode.
Instinct tells them a fire is coming, instead of attacking Richard; they gorge themselves with honey and prepare to move the hive.
Adee and other American honey producers have been in survival mode, fighting a mystery bee killer called Colony Collapse Disorder, and a smoke screen of illegally imported honey
The "honey laundering" schemes surreptitiously bring in millions of pounds of Chinese honey, which flood the market and drive down prices American producers get for their product from honey packers.
“I guess the most frustrating thing is the packer will tell you I can get this honey from someplace else for 25 cents a pound cheaper and we know that it's circumvented honey, we know its not legitimate honey, and yet we have to compete against it and that’s what is most frustrating”, said Adee.
Here's how it works... China, the world's largest honey producer, can't import to the U.S. without paying high tariffs meant to protect American bee keepers.
So someone in Germany had an idea, buy Chinese honey, send it to say India, slap a sticker on it, and ship it to the US. India doesn't have a tariff, so cheap Chinese honey pours into the U.S.
After the scheme was uncovered, the Government fined the American company that imported the honey two million dollars, but still stinging from losses, Adee and other honey producers are suing the company with one goal in mind.
“We hope it puts them out of business because we got some really good importers in this country”, said Adee.
So how does the government know the honey is from China? A little like CSI, American scientists can get a pretty good idea about the origin of honey by the type of pollen it contains.
But some importers use ultrafine filtering, this removes pollen and the ability to tell where the honey originally came from.
However, the threat of further lawsuits and a U.S. government crackdown slowed and in some cases stopped the flow of illegal honey into the U.S. It appeared honey laundering was finally under control, and the honey produced at the Adee plant in South Dakota would hit the market without unfair competition for the first time in years.
But Adee felt something was still out of balance. It wouldn't be long before he was proved right.
You see, that cheap Chinese honey was too sweet to pass up, hundreds of thousands of barrels of Chinese honey got by u-s customs because it was labeled as syrup. One scheme lasted from 2009 to 2012 before it was discovered. Adee has been called upon by both congress and prosecutors to testify about the damage the honey dumping is doing to the U.S. Market. This latest case he puts at 350 million dollars.
“I never heard of a bank heist of 350 million dollars, and kinda get away with a slap on the hand. They deserve to be accountable for what they did”, said Adee.
With 80 thousand colonies, Adee is among the largest honey producers in the country, and he remains apprehensive about the future of the American honey industry. Waiting to see what new schemes will be uncovered as importers half a world away threaten his very way of life, in what has been called one of the largest cases of ongoing food fraud in U.S. history
“We don't mind competing against anybody as long as it’s on a level playing field”, said Adee.