I've recently read a 500 post thread that was sort of on this subject, though it was based on an article that many found inflammatory and unfair. As a consequence, little light was shed on the subject.
But it did get me to thinking about the subject, which may or may not have been a good thing.
Here's my premise: beekeeping is a kind of farming, and in this country, farming is in trouble, especially the kind of small scale farming that used to be the backbone of the country's agricultural production. For many years, the mantra in farming was Get Big or Get Out. And most small farmers did get out. The industry (and I use that word regretfully) is now dominated by by large-scale farming.
However, it seems to me that beekeeping is a form of agriculture that is poorly suited to large-scale implementation. Unfortunately, the marketing system seems to favor large-scale honey packers over beekeepers. The FDA's labeling requirements make it fairly easy for inexpensive imported honey to depress the prices that American beekeepers get for their product. Because of these lax requirement, it seems more difficult than it should be for beekeepers to market their product as superior to commodity imported honey.
To go back to the small farm analogy, any small farmer these days who tries to compete with agribusiness by raising commodity crops like corn and soybeans is on the road to bankruptcy. He just can't do it; he doesn't have the economies of scale, the capitalization, and the subsidies that make these crops so profitable for agribusiness. The only small farmers these days who seem to be prospering are those who have found ways to market their products as unique and in some way superior to commodity products. Think, for example, of organic farmers, or those who market specialty vegetable to restaurants, or who raise grass-fed beef... and so on.
It sure seems to me that the FDA could do more to help American beekeepers by requiring retail labels to show place of origin, degree of filtration, purity, etc., and devoting resources to enforcing these requirements.
I'm not even a beekeeper, so maybe I should sit down and shut up. But it must be pretty difficult for many smaller commercial beekeepers to make a living from honey production alone, competing head-to-head with cheap imported honey. I really like honey; I've discovered that honey varietals are every bit as interesting as wine varietals. Would it not be a good thing if local beekeepers could market their honey as special, as a product of their unique setting... rather than shipping barrels of honey at commodity prices to honey packers. (And I know that they can market locally, selling in local co-ops and farmer's markets and so forth) But that isn't a reasonable approach for a national market.
In France, many vintners make a very good living from very small vineyards, in part because the French authorities ferociously control the labeling of the product. We seem to be at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to labeling honey.
Anyway, sorry about writing a book, and my apologies in advance for any stupid stuff I've said.