What You Need to Know About Hawai‘i Constitutional Amendment 2

honolulu

Next Tuesday, voters statewide will face five constitutional amendments, two of which relate to agriculture. Get to know what these amendment questions mean before heading to the polls so you can choose either Yes or No, since a blank vote counts as a No. Here’s what you need to know about Amendment 2, which would support the local food industry and agriculture.

What it says:

CON AMEND: Relating to Agricultural Enterprises

“Shall the State be authorized to issue special purpose revenue bonds and use the proceeds from the bonds to assist agricultural enterprises on any type of land, rather than only important agricultural lands?”

What it means:

Special purpose revenue bonds are issued to allow private investors to give loans to borrowers—say, a farmer. The investor, not the state, is responsible for paying back the funds if the borrower falls short. These loans come with a lower interest rate, which benefits the borrower, and the interest is tax-free, which benefits the investor. The state does nothing other than facilitate, meaning no taxpayer money is spent, and the state’s credit is not affected if the borrower doesn’t make payments.

Right now, only 6 percent of Hawai‘i is designated as important agricultural lands. It’s a lengthy and complicated process to apply, says Brandon Lee of Ulupono Initiative, and the designation requires the lands must be used only as ag lands, never for any other purpose, such as development. Farmers on these lands are allowed to seek special purpose revenue bonds; though, according to Lee, none has been granted in the past four years.

“There is an allocation [of bonds],” Lee says. Because the state can’t allow the special bonds for every single project, there are designated categories, such as early childhood education and nonprofit healthcare facilities. “But, roughly, in four years, four or five projects have been approved as special purpose revenue bonds, and none of them under agriculture. Ag hasn’t gotten its fair share.”

Broadening the category from important agricultural lands to ag enterprises on any lands will increase the chances that farmers, ranchers and other ag businesses can get the money they need to update their operations, improve facilities and, ultimately, grow more food.

A Yes vote is a vote for local food

Agriculture grant information session | About Town | 4-21-14

Agriculture grant information session planned for Thursday

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is inviting the public to an agriculture grant information session and market development workshop from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday at the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Kona Cooperative Extension Service, 79-7381 Mamalahoa Highway in Kainaliu.

Attendees will discuss different funding sources, proposal preparation and reporting and grant requirements. There is no cost to attend but registration is required the day before the event.

For more information, call Marci at 973-9595 or email hdoa.md@hawaii.gov.

USDA Encourages Early Registration for FSA Programs

FSA_masthead_logo

USDA Encourages Early Registration for FSA Programs

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan M. Garcia today recommended that farmers and ranchers who plan to participate in FSA programs register in advance. Producers are encouraged to report farm records and business structure changes to a local FSA Service Center before April 15, 2014.

Enrollment for the disaster programs authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, including the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) will begin by April 15, 2014.

“We expect significant interest in these programs,” said Garcia. “Early registration should help improve the sign-up process and allow us to expedite implementation of the programs. I strongly encourage producers to complete their paperwork ahead of time.”

Examples of updates or changes to report include:

  • New producers or producers who have not reported farm records to FSA.
  • Producers who have recently bought, sold or rented land. Those producers need to ensure that changes have been reported and properly recorded by local FSA county office personnel. Reports of purchased or sold property should include a copy of the land deed, and if land has been leased, then documentation should be provided that indicates the producer had/has control of the acreage.
  • Producers that have changed business structures (e.g. formed a partnership or LLC) need to ensure that these relationships and shares are properly recorded with FSA. Even family farms that have records on file may want to ensure that this is recorded accurately as it may impact payment limits.

Farm records can be updated during business hours at FSA Service Centers that administer the county where the farm or ranch is located. Producers can contact their local FSA Service Center in advance to find out what paperwork they may need. In addition, bank account information should be supplied or updated if necessary to ensure that producers receive payments as quickly as possible through direct deposit.

While any producer may report farm records and business structure changes, it is especially important for producers who suffered livestock, livestock grazing, honeybee, farm-raised fish, or tree/vine losses for 2011, 2012, 2013 or 2014, and may be eligible for assistance through one of the four disaster programs.

Programs in U.S. match fledgling farmers, landowners

ALBANY, N.Y. » When Schuyler and Colby Gail were trying to get started in farming, they ran into an obstacle common to many fledgling farmers: Land was expensive and hard to find.

They turned to a local land conservancy, which matched them up with a landowner willing to sell at an affordable price. Now, they raise pigs, lambs and poultry on their farm in New Lebanon, 25 miles southeast of Albany near the Massachusetts border.

“We were able to come to a better financial agreement because the landowners were excited about what we were doing,” said Schuyler Gail, who launched Climbing Tree Farm a year ago with her husband, a carpenter. “It wouldn’t be the same if we bought land off the regular real estate market.”

To keep land in agricultural production and help a new generation start farming as older farmers near retirement, land conservancies and other farm preservation groups have launched a growing number of landowner-farmer matching programs like the one that helped the Gails.

About 25 states have FarmLink programs that match new farmers with landowners, and the programs vary in how involved they are in matches. For example, Connecticut has made only about a half dozen since it began in 2007 but staffers aren’t allowed to get involved in leases, spokeswoman Jane Slupecki said. The opposite is true in California, said Central Valley coordinator Liya Schwartzman. In Maine, the program has facilitated 82 matches since it started in 2002, a spokeswoman said.

More than 60 percent of farmers are over 55, and the fastest growing group of farmers and ranchers is those over 65, Census figures showed. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has set a goal of creating 100,000 new farmers within the next few years.

Farmers, lawmakers braced for cuts in subsidies

A program that puts billions of dollars in the pockets of farmers whether or not they plant a crop may disappear with hardly a protest from farm groups and the politicians who look out for their interests.

The Senate is expected to begin debate this week on a five-year farm and food aid bill that would save $9.3 billion by ending direct payments to farmers and replacing them with subsidized insurance programs for when the weather turns bad or prices go south.

The details have yet to be worked out. But there’s rare agreement that fixed annual subsidies of $5 billion a year for farmers are no longer feasible when budgets are tight and farmers in general are enjoying record prosperity.

About 80 percent of the bill’s half-trillion-dollar cost over the next five years represents nutrition programs, primarily food stamps that go to some 46 million people. About $100 billion would be devoted to crop subsidies and other farm programs.

The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee last month approved a bill that would save $23 billion over the next decade by ending direct payments and consolidating other programs. The bill would strengthen the subsidized crop insurance program and create a program to compensate farmers for smaller, or “shallow,” revenue losses, based on a five-year average, for acres actually planted.

Getting a bill to the president’s desk will be a challenge. Most of the bill’s spending is on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, at an annual cost now of about $75 billion. The Republican-led House is looking for greater cuts to this program than the Democratic Senate will accept.

The House also is more sympathetic to Southern rice and peanut farmers who say that the shallow-loss program would hurt them.

$6M grant funds research facility expansion

BY NANCY COOK LAUER | WEST HAWAII TODAY

HILO — An agricultural research center on a hillside overlooking Hilo is getting a little bigger, thanks to a $6.2 million federal grant celebrated Friday at a dedication ceremony.

The U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center is one of about 100 such facilities scattered across the globe. The Hawaii center has researched the papaya ringspot virus, fruit flies, nematodes, purple sweet potatoes and other problems and opportunities unique to the tropics.

The expansion adds 4,500 square feet of technical office and conference space to the 35,000-square-foot, $48 million first phase of the facility. It houses 15 scientists and 65 support staff on 30 acres.

“We’re dedicating a building today, but it is more than bricks and mortar,” said Sylvia Yuen, interim dean of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “The legacy will continue in the research … that will help solve serious agricultural problems.”

Facilities include laboratories, greenhouses and what’s called the “head house,” where plants are worked on before and after they’re in the greenhouse environment. The head house is equipped with photovoltaic cells generating 40 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Farm Bill Programs Available

USDA Farm Service Agency News Release

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture, is offering technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to develop, install and implement authorized conservation practices. To receive assistance, the farmer or rancher must be in control of the land where practices will be applied, have an agricultural income of at least $1,000 per year and be willing to implement conservation practices of the duration of the contract and maintain such practices.

The following programs assist operators in implementing conservation practices:
• EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program)
• WHIP (Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program)
• AMA (Agricultural Management Assistance)
• WRP (Wetlands Reserve Program)
• GRP (Grassland Reserve Program)
• CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program)

For a full description of program eligibility, visit pia.nrcs.usda.gov/programs, or contact the Ho`olehua Field Office at 4101 Maunaloa Hwy or 567-6868 ext. 105.

Farm Bill Programs Available | Molokai Dispatch

Clean energy future racing toward reality

Maui Electric Co. and other Hawaii utilities once again were ranked among the top utilities in the country for solar power capacity.

MECO parent Hawaiian Electric Co. again was named one of the nation’s Top 10 electric utilities for the amount of solar power added to its system per customer in the the 2010 Solar Electric Power Association Utility Solar Rankings. MECO was ranked in fifth place for total solar watts per customer.

The amount of grid-connected solar is growing fast, and even a little faster than vendors had promised, if the experience of businessmen Thomas Kafsack and Josh Stone is any indication.

Both installed solar generators since the last round of SEPA solar rankings.

Kafsack, operator of Surfing Goat Dairy, just broke ground for phase two of his 43 kilowatt project, but he is pleased with phase one, which covers half his barn roof and was switched on a couple of weeks ago.

The project, designed and built by Haleakala Solar, cost more than $300,000, but after two tries Kafsack got a Renewable Energy for America grant from the Department of Agriculture to cover 20 percent of the cost.

Without the grant, he said Friday, the investment would not have made a sufficient return, but with it he will recover his costs “in under 10 years.”

Conservation group to provide $4.5 million to protect Big Island and Oahu land

The state’s Legacy Lands Conservation program is providing $4.5 million in grants for the purchase and protection of culturally and agriculturally important lands on the Big Island and Oahu.

The money is expected to be matched by $7.6 million in federal, county, and private funding.

The grants are supported by revenue from the state’s land conveyance tax. Ten percent of the tax proceeds each year go to the Legacy Land Conservation Fund, where the grant money is taken from.

The state said Friday the commission overseeing the program selected four projects for funding this year.

They include agricultural land at Kaiholena in North Kohala, agricultural land near Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s North Shore, and the Hawea Heiau Complex and the Keawawa Wetland site in Hawaii Kai.

Conservation group to provide $4.5 million to protect Big Island and Oahu land – Hawaii News – Staradvertiser.com