Hawaii County considers agricultural tourism bill


HILO >> Hawaii County lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it easier for small farmers to give tours to visitors, usually for a fee, and to sell related agricultural and nonagricultural products at a gift shop. Large agricultural operations already can do this.

The legislation, which the council is scheduled to hear Thursday, proposes separating agricultural activities into “major” and “minor” operations, West Hawaii Today reported.

Minor operations would be required to limit annual visitors to 5,000, with a maximum 100 visitors per week. Major operations would be allowed up to 30,000 visitors per year.

The Hawaii Agritourism Association and other supporters say the bill will help small farmers survive the vagaries of the economy and weather by providing a reliable supplemental income source.

Opponents worry the measure will distract farmers from their primary occupation of food production, while increasing the value of agricultural land and property taxes.

Freshman Puna Councilman Zendo Kern proposed the bill. He’s been trying to draft a measure balancing the needs of small farmers and would-be “agritourism” businesses with rural neighbors who worry about impacts like increased traffic and noise.

Major agritourism operations still would need to get their plans approved, while minor ones would not. Both types would be required to turn over financial records upon the request of the planning department to verify compliance.

North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff hopes the bill can be delayed a little longer to ensure it’s the best it can be before moving it on to its final hearing later this month.

Hawaii County considers agricultural tourism bill – Hawaii News – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Farmers say tax changes pose threat


MAKAWAO – Upcountry farmers said this week that they have concerns about proposals to change the way agricultural lands are taxed.

A number of landowners said any changes that increased what they pay in property taxes could put small farmers and ranchers out of business. Others questioned how the proposal would affect people who stop farming because of old age.

“I’m retired, and I’m worried about how we’re going to afford this,” said former persimmon farmer Blanche Ito. “All of a sudden, we’re faced with this new bill that might increase my taxes, and that concerns me.”

Ito was among around 40 residents who attended a special meeting of the Maui County Council Budget and Finance Committee on Monday night at Kalama Intermediate School in Makawao.

The committee is considering legislation that would tax the land under a home on an agricultural lot in the same way as a regular residential property.

Currently, an agricultural house lot is taxed as a percentage of the larger parcel’s total value, often resulting in a significantly lower amount than what a similar lot in a residential neighborhood would be worth. Council members have said the measure would be a first step in bringing more equity to the property tax system.

But several testifiers questioned that idea. Continue reading ‘Farmers say tax changes pose threat’

Editor’s note » Honolulu Weekly


On Thursday, the Land Use Commission will hold another public hearing on Castle & Cooke’s plans to build a new “community” on 768 acres between Waipio and Mililani. The Koa Ridge project, which includes two schools, a medical complex, a 150-room hotel and nearly half a million square feet of commercial space, relies on the LUC’s approval, and on its willingness to take the land out of agricultural zoning.

The Sierra Club and other environmental and agricultural advocates say that Koa Ridge would deprive Oahu of some of its very best agricultural land and that the project contributes to urban sprawl.

We didn’t have a reporter at the first hearing last month. The Advertiser reported that public testimony showed strong support for the project, with only one person speaking out in opposition. According to that report, most area residents who testified expressed hope that Koa Ridge might keep housing costs down for middle class families.

That’s an important goal, but doesn’t it seem like there are other ways to achieve it? At a time when so much energy is going into rethinking agricultural production and making farming viable on this island again, taking prime ag land out of production–forever–seems like a step in the wrong direction.

State Land Use Commission Meeting, 235 S. Beretania St, Thu 2/18, 9am, 587-3822

Editor’s note » Honolulu Weekly

Kula housing project gains a little ground – The Maui News

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Kula housing project gains a little ground

WAILUKU – Maui Planning Commission members were unable to agree where to designate growth boundaries in South Maui, but they did make some progress in Kula.

The Kula Ridge housing project had both supporters and doubters before the planning commission.

Part of the project is supposed to be affordable, but some wondered how to ensure that it really turns out that way.

"Don’t get into a project-review decision-making mode," advised Department of Planning Director Jeff Hunt, adding that downstream reviews of matters such as community plan designations can look at projects in detail.

"This is the beginning of a 125-hurdle process," said Chairman Wayne Hedani.

When it came to a vote, the controversial portion of Kula Ridge cleared its hurdle, with commission member Warren Shibuya dissenting over concerns about water and the adequacy of Lower Kula Road.

However, A&B Properties’ bid to add 80 acres to 63 acres for residential development at Haliimaile failed.

Commission member Kent Hiranaga pointed out that the developer is going to provide water and sewage treatment anyway, so it would be financially helpful to expand the project.

"A&B is an agriculture company and a development company," he said. "If we want to allow them to continue the agricultural sector of their business, you need to allow some development. If you take away development, I believe you are jeopardizing the future of sugar cane.

"Then you will have lots of ag land to use for something."

However, farmers – organic and conventional – opposed taking prime agricultural land out of production, and on a split vote the 80 acres were excluded from the designated growth zone.

That Hiranaga moved to support an A&B proposal was ironic in light of earlier testimony.

Continue reading ‘Kula housing project gains a little ground – The Maui News’

Haku Mo’olelo – The Maui News

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By EDWIN TANJI, For The Maui News

POSTED: September 11, 2009

Sonny Kaniho was a Native Hawaiian. He was also a loyal citizen of the United States, an Air Force veteran, a Pearl Harbor shipworker.

As a Native Hawaiian, he recognized injustices perpetrated on Native Hawaiians. As an American, he believed the government could be pushed into reversing the injustices. He knew it would take effort and it would take time. He committed himself to the effort. It’s taken more time than he had, but the injustices he strived to correct had been in place for most of the century.

His effort also was mostly personal but it ran parallel with and enhanced other efforts by many groups to revitalize Hawaiian culture and restore Hawaiian rights. In the 1970s, efforts at restoring Hawaii as a place reflecting its indigenous people included the Aboriginal Lands of Hawaii Association, Hawaiian musicians, kumu hula, the Polynesian Voyaging Society, the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana, and Dr. Terry Shintani, who established the nutritional value of the Hawaiian Diet.

Kaniho’s effort gave a synergistic boost to the 1978 debate that led to formulation of Article XII of the Hawaii Constitution – the Hawaiian Affairs section mandating state funding for Hawaiian Home Lands and establishing the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Sonny Kaniho was an unlikely protester who conducted unlikely protests, a soft-spoken man engaging in nonviolent acts of civil disobedience in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King. His peaceful protests were not angry confrontations. They were designed to draw public attention to what he viewed to be unjust decisions of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

The department didn’t agree, but it based its actions on 50 years of inertia. Kaniho knew the excuses. He didn’t accept them.

Continue reading ‘Haku Mo’olelo – The Maui News’

Mayor urges council to reject Bill 132, allow unused Hamakua land sale to proceed | Hawaii247.org

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Mayor Billy Kenoi today called on the Hawai’i County Council to reject Bill 132 when the council Finance Committee considers the measure next week. Bill 132 would require the County Council approve each county land sale two times, adding a new bureaucratic layer to the process.

“This issue is about fiscal responsibility,” Mayor Kenoi said. “Because of the difficult economic times, we proposed selling a portion of the Hamakua lands that have sat unused for 15 years. The sale was part of a budget process designed to avoid raising taxes, avoid cuts in non-profit agencies, maintain free bus service, and protect essential services such as police and fire protection. In June, the County Council agreed with this proposal, and voted 8-1 for a budget that included revenue from a Hamakua land sale.”

Continue reading ‘Mayor urges council to reject Bill 132, allow unused Hamakua land sale to proceed | Hawaii247.org’

The People’s Dialectic – Development and Local Awareness

August 30th, 2009 by peoplesdialectic

I’ve always been impressed with the quality of events Kanu Hawaii puts on to help the community and raise awareness about important issues.

The Eat Local Challenge is no exception. In fact, it strikes at the heart of possibly one of the most immediate and important questions for our islands. Eating local is beneficial on both an economic and environmental level. And the light the Challenge shines on food channels couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin featured on Wednesday, August 12, an article discussing plans to develop 1,500 acres of some of ‘the best ag land’ on Oahu for a 12,000 home community. The loss of this prime agricultural land to tract housing, shopping centers, and business parks will be a significant loss of our ability to grow food for ourselves.

There was a day when the economy of our islands didn’t depend on visitors from around the world. While no one suggests we return to the plantation culture, we do need to diversify our economy away from tourism. With a revenue stream that is so fundamentally tied to the vacation plans of people around the world, Hawaii is particularly vulnerable to economic hard times and recessions. We can no longer afford to depend so heavily on the disposable income of others. Hawaii must once again become self-sufficient.

Continue reading ‘The People’s Dialectic – Development and Local Awareness’

State land use panel rejects plan for 12,000 homes on Ewa farms – Starbulletin.com

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State land use panel rejects plan for 12,000 homes on Ewa farms

By Susan Essoyan

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 29, 2009

In a rare move, the state Land Use Commission rejected yesterday a developer’s push to urbanize 1,500 acres of prime agricultural land in Ewa to create a new community of nearly 12,000 homes.

The commission voted 5-3 to declare the petition by D.R. Horton-Schuler Division "deficient," saying the developer had not followed the rules by spelling out an incremental development plan for its Ho’opili project. But it said Horton could fix its petition and try again.

"Hallelujah!" Kioni Dudley, president of Friends of Makakilo and leader of the opposition, declared after the vote. "It’s a great victory. It’s a victory for the aina. I hope the setback to the developer is permanent."

Dudley had some powerful support at yesterday’s hearing, including the state Office of Planning, which argued forcefully against the project, and the heads of the state Transportation and Agriculture departments. The commissioners also heard hours of testimony from members of the public, most of them pleading to keep the land growing fruits and vegetables for local consumption.

Continue reading ‘State land use panel rejects plan for 12,000 homes on Ewa farms – Starbulletin.com’

TheGardenIsland.com – Managing uncertainty

IAL meeting creates more questions than answers

By Lois Ann Ell – Special to The Garden Island

Published: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 2:11 AM HST

KAPA‘A — What began as an informational meeting about the designation of important agricultural lands turned into a heated discussion about Kaua‘i’s agricultural future.

Dr. Karl Kim, a professor at the UH Department of Urban and Regional Planning, presented a slide show of the Koloa-Po‘ipu pilot agricultural lands study he and his colleagues conducted for the Land Use Commission. He was the guest speaker at the monthly Wailua-Kapa’a Neighborhood Association meeting Monday night at the Kapa’a Library.

Continue reading ‘TheGardenIsland.com – Managing uncertainty’

Developer plans 12,000 homes on ‘the best ag land’ on Oahu – Hawaii News – Starbulletin.com

JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM

A proposal for building 12,000 homes on what is described as the best agricultural land on Oahu goes back before the state Land Use Commission tomorrow.

 

Development Map

Development Map

D.R. Horton-Schuler Division is planning a development known as Ho’opili on 1,500 acres makai of the H-1 freeway, between Waipahu and Kapolei, and is petitioning the state to change the land’s designation from agricultural to urban use. The developer, which has been presenting its case over several months, expects to wrap up its arguments tomorrow, and the opposition will soon get its turn at bat.

"This is the highest-producing agricultural land in the state, which we’re going to need for our future survival," said Kioni Dudley, president of the Friends of Makakilo, who heads the opposition as an intervener in the Land Use Commission case. "Even without Ho’opili, 33,000 homes have already been zoned and are ready to be built in the Leeward area. The traffic that Ho’opili is going to cause is going to be like a parking lot. There’s no way to solve that problem even with rail."

The Ho’opili project calls for creating a community the size of Hawaii Kai or Mililani to complete the build-out of the Kapolei-Ewa area as the "Second City." Although the land is designated agricultural by the state, it falls within the urban growth boundary of the city’s Ewa Development Plan, and the city rail transit project is slated to run through the community.

The land is now used for farming by three tenants, including Aloun Farms, which provides a substantial amount of the local supply of crops, including sweet corn, beans, melons, pumpkin and lettuce. Bob Bruhl, vice president of development for Horton-Schuler, said the project will be built over 20 years and that "farming can continue during the incremental build-out of Ho’opili."

Developer plans 12,000 homes on ‘the best ag land’ on Oahu – Hawaii News – Starbulletin.com

Hawaii House Blog: Agriculture

The Rodney Dangerfield of the Economy

The room was packed, and the message came through loud and clear at the informational briefing this morning on the state of Hawaii’s agriculture industry. It was a joint meeting of the Committees on Agriculture and Water, Land & Ocean Resources.
The industry faces its more critical period ever, and without significant changes, agriculture as we know it, may cease to exist in Hawaii in the near future. Here are some of the highlights from the briefing:

Dean Okimoto – President of Hawaii Farm Bureau, Owner of Nalo Farms

Nalo Farms is at great risk. Okimoto has been working on an expansion project for a few years which he hopes to open on Monday. He has poured much of his savings into the project as he has had to pay off a loan with no incoming project revenue for the past 15 months. He says that it feels like he is losing business, not gaining business, and even the farm itself is not doing well.
The danger for the industry is that once we lose a farm, it never comes back. Nalo Farms is not alone. Several farms have closed in recent months. Part of the problem is that agriculture is like "the Rodney Dangerfield of the economy" – it gets no respect. In particular, Hawaii’s tourism industry is highly dependent on agriculture, but Okimoto believes that there is little recognition from the tourism industry, nor collaboration between the two industries.

Buddy Nobriga – President of Nobriga Ranch

Nobriga contends that the Hawaii Department of Agriculture is one of the smallest Ag Departments in the nation. The state needs a larger, stronger department that can help the farmers and ranchers. There are not enough inspectors to monitor the quality of imported milk. We don’t have strong relationships with the USDA. We don’t have the land to establish dairies.
We need agriculture in order to be sustainable. In a way, agriculture and farmers are like the "security" of the state.

Meredith Ching – Alexander and Baldwin (large landowner)

Large landowners face the same problems as small farms. The lack of rainfall in the past decade has had a cumulative effect on island crops. 2008 was the driest year over the past 85 years. In addition, the state has been in a prolonged drought for the past decade, with the past two years being exceptionally dry.

Yvonne Izu – Hawaii Farm Bureau, former state water commissioner

The legislature needs to amend the state water code law. The East Maui decision is a perfect example of how the water code does not support agriculture. This is one way the legislature can help farmers without spending money. Farmers do not have hope that agriculture can survive in this state.

Richard Ha – President, Hamakua Springs

The world has changed. He has had to lay off 20 workers recently. He says you can tell that farming is bad when fertilizer sales go down. Fertilizer sales have been going down since last spring. There is, however, an opportunity to use agricultural lands for energy crops. A bill passed last year allows farmers to finance loans for energy projects, although this may not be quite enough incentive to bring more people into farming.
He has a blog now. "These days, you gotta blog if you’re a farmer."

Eric Tanouye – Greenpoint Nursery
Tanouye’s 20-year-old son is in college and has said that he wants to work in the family business. This excites Tanouye because it would mean three generations working in the business. Tanouye is also the President of the Florists and Shippers Association and he has visited members across the state on all the islands. All of them face very difficult times. It is unprecedented.

Kylie Matsuda – Matsuda and Fukuyama Farms in Kahuku

She represents the 4th generation of farmers in Kahuku. She has a degree in Tourism Industry Management, but wanted to go back and be part of the family farm business. Her parents did not want her to do it, but she wanted to use her tourism expertise and expand the business into agri-tourism. She had to fight to get her job at the farm. She feels that farming can become viable again if you consider value-added products which will bring additional dollars.
For example, tourists can’t take home fresh fruits and vegetables, but they take back dried fruit, jams and jellies, and other products. There are also farm-related activities to market.
What can be done? Some suggestions:
*Clarify the state policy on water. The East Maui decision seemed to put farmers at a lower level of beneficiary than others. The water commission needs to understand the importance and value of the agriculture industry to the state.
*Provide tax credits for new farmers. Incent farmers to start farming.
*Support more farmers’ markets. It provides more revenue and forces farmers to interface with their market and the public, and through dialog, they can improve their product and have fun talking to people.
*Dean Okimoto summarized: He wanted to make it clear that the farmers are not looking to the legislature to solve all their problems. However, the legislature can be helpful in making other industries and the general public more aware that farming is critical to our state. Right now, tourism does not appreciate or support agriculture. Someone needs to hold their (tourism’s) feet to the fire in helping agriculture.
Chair Clift Tsuji and Chair Ken Ito expressed their appreciation to the farmers for coming today; they understood the gravity of the situation. They will be using the information from the briefing to propose legislation for the 2009 session.

Hawaii House Blog: Agriculture

California Co. buys Hawaii papaya operations | starbulletin.com | Business | /2008/05/21/

 

Calavo Growers is buying Hawaii Pride and Hawaiian Sweet

By Nina Wu
nwu@starbulletin.com

Calavo Growers of California has acquired papaya and tropical-product packing and processing operations on the Big Island for between $10 million and $14 million.

Calavo Growers is buying Hawaiian Sweet Inc. and Hawaii Pride LLC from Calavo’s chairman, president and CEO Lee E. Cole.

The deal gives Calavo operations that pack an estimated 65 to 70 percent of all Hawaiian-grown papayas and 80 percent of Hawaii’s exports to the mainland.

Calavo, which got its start in avocados, also acquired 3,000 acres on the Big Island, in addition to two fresh-papaya packinghouses and cooling facilities, and papaya and guava puree operations.

The acquisition comes on the heels of Calavo’s deal with Maui Pineapple Company Ltd. to sell, market and distribute its Maui Gold fresh product throughout the continental U.S. and Canada in December.

Calavo, which presently ships about 200,000 pounds of fresh papayas to the mainland per week, believes there is plenty of room for growth. Since 1949, the company has sold and marketed Hawaiian papayas, which continued after Cole’s acquisition of Hawaiian Sweet in the early 1990s.

"Calavo transitions from simply being paid a commission on its papaya sales to collecting full margin based on its ownership of the papaya and tropical-product operations," said Calavo chief operating officer Arthur J. Bruno. "We are confident that our company’s depth of financial and operational resources, along with a growing position in the tropical-produce category, can propel these acquired assets to the next level."

Bruno said the company anticipates increasing the earnings of both Hawaiian Sweet and Hawaiian Pride, including more than $8 million in tangible assets from the collective packing and processing facilities and agricultural land, he said

California Co. buys Hawaii papaya operations | starbulletin.com | Business | /2008/05/21/

The poison in Molokai soil

Molokai Times
By Alexandra Charles
7/12/2007 1:51:39 PM

Heptachlor, a toxic pesticide banned in the U.S. in 1988 and classified as a probable carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency, is likely to cause ill effects to human health if exposure to the chemical is in high doses and over a long period of time.

Studies of the pesticides’ effects have been limited to laboratory rodents. When fed high levels of heptachlor over a long period of time, the animals developed liver cancer. Several experts say it is reasonable to assume similar effects will occur in humans who are exposed to a high dose of heptachlor by drinking water or milk, inhaling air, or touching soil contaminated by the chemical.

“Pesticides by their nature are dangerous,” explained farmer Larry Jefts. “They are created to kill stuff or stop its growth.”

He added, “They may not be dangerous to you and me but they may be to some weeds and bugs. We want to be really careful, to follow rules, and to rely on science and not science fiction (when using pesticides on agricultural land).”

Research confirms pineapple companies contaminated the soil when using heptachlor to kill pests on crops. Of major concern is what impact such a regular agricultural practice in Hawaii during the late 1950s and early 1980s has on people today.

A problem arises from land use changes because when new residences are built on agricultural land that was contaminated by pesticides, homeowners are not told about the potential harmful impact to their health.

For instance, after the Hawaiian Homes Act was established in 1920, the federal government put 200,000 acres of Hawaiian land aside for homesteading by Hawaiians with 50 percent or more native blood. In Hoolehua, agricultural lots were established. It is unlikely that homesteaders were informed about what was put into the soil when the land was part of pineapple plantations.

Residents have a variety of suspicions and concerns regarding pesticides like heptachlor. One resident, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the number of infant gravesite markers in the north side of the Maunaloa cemetery took him aback. He pointed out that Maunaloa was once a pineapple town and said it was chilling for him to see how many children did not live more than a few days. Currently, it is difficult to uncover the cause of death for those buried in the cemetery.

The heptachlor-milk connection . . .

Click to Read Complete Article

Copyright 2007 Molokai Times

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