Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An Update on Agriculture

David Case of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association submits testimony
Concepts like sustainability, food security, and food sovereignty have made their way into conversations throughout the state. Today's Committee on Agriculture hearing vetted several pieces of legislation aimed at channeling this new found interest in sustainable agriculture into policy. Of the 11 bills covered at the hearing, 4 dealt with overarching policy directives relating to food security.

Dean Okimoto, HFBF President/Ho'opili consultant, testifies before the committee
A great deal of testimony, both written and verbal, was submitted regarding these bills; the overwhelming majority of which was in support of the legislation. The committee unanimously adopted 3 of the 4 bills and deferred HB1947, dealing with the creation of an agricultural safety and security program, to be heard again on February 8th. Two of the adopted measures, HB2430, which will create an agricultural development and food security program within the Department of Agriculture, and HB2431, which outlines objectives and policies to support the purchase and consumption of locally grown products, were part of a policy package from the Governor's office. The final bill to be adopted, HB2703, will require the Department of Agriculture to develop a food sustainability standard to promote local food production as well as mandate doubling our locally produced food consumption by 2020, was the only time the discussion became contentious.

Board of Agriculture Chair, Russell Kokubun, submits testimony
Although they both supported the bill, Dean Okimoto, President of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, and Russell Kokubun, Chairman of the Board of Agriculture, requested the punitive measure for land owners who fail to meet the goal of increased production of locally grown food be stripped from HB2703 (if landowners fail to meet the goal, they will be unable to re-designate agricultural land of 25 acres or more for other purposes until they are compliant). Hawaii Farmers Union President, Glenn Martinez, questioned the effectiveness of the legislation if its sole enforcement mechanism was removed. Without mentioning it by name, Mr. Martinez brought up the elephant in the room; Ho'opili. Mr. Martinez pointed out the fact that while both the HFBF and the DoA testified in support of doubling the amount of locally produced food to make it onto dinner tables in the state, they also stand behind the controversial planned housing development, which will uproot the state's largest produce producer, Aloun Farms, and turn 1,500 acres of prime agricultural land into 11,750 new homes.

Hawaii Farm Union President, Glenn Martinez, testifying before the Committee
The next Committee on Agriculture hearing is Friday, February 3 at 8:00am in room 312 at the Capitol. The agenda for the hearing can be found here.

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