Rainfall levels in Upcountry areas are below normal this year, and there’s a bleak outlook for rain for ranchers and farmers as the islands head into the normally dry summer months, a hydrologist said Thursday.
“We’re headed out of our wet season. The outlook is not too good,” said Kevin Kodama, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service on Oahu.
From January through March, Kula received 5.5 inches of rain. Normally, it gets around 8.7 inches, Kodama said. Pukalani received 4 inches in the same time period while it normally gets around 16 inches. Ulupalakua received a little under 5 inches, and it usually gets about 10.
“We’re in really bad shape,” said Sumner Erdman, president of Ulupalakua Ranch. “The economic impacts have already hit.”
Erdman said this will be the fourth year his ranch has been impacted by dry conditions.
The economic losses amount in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.
The ranch has had to sell cattle. It now also sees cattle with lower weights because less rain means cows have less grass to feed on. The ranch also has lower reproduction rates because there are fewer cows to breed, Erdman said.
Over four years, the number of breeding cows has gone from 2,300 to 1,500, as the ranch sells them off to deal with the drought conditions, Erdman said.
The ranch currently has 3,800 head of cattle, with preparations under way to sell more, he said.
Warren Watanabe, executive director of the Maui County Farm Bureau, said the dry weather trend seems to follow the long-term prediction of scientists.
Because areas of extreme drought in Hawaii have increased in the past few months, with the hardest hit being the pasture areas on the Big Island, Maui and portions of Molokai, the farm bureau’s priority during this legislative session has been to fund drought mitigation projects. Continue reading
Loss of assistance from state deals another blow to shrinking industry
By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer
The state has spent about $3.8 million since November 2007 on a program aimed at revitalizing Hawai’i’s struggling livestock industry and improving the state’s self-sufficiency.
Despite the cash infusion, Hawai’i’s livestock industry has continued to shrink.
Now those subsidies, which were scheduled to run through 2010, have been canceled because of the state’s budget shortfall.
That doesn’t bode well for livestock producers.
The subsidies "stopped some of the decline," said David "Buddy" Nobriga, president of Nobriga’s Ranch, which is a cattle feedlot in Waikapu Town on Maui.
Nobriga’s Ranch received $83,616 in feed subsidies, according to state records. Without the subsidies, "We’ve got to tighten up our belts and see if we can survive," Nobriga said.
Although Hawai’i’s farm sector remains relatively small compared with the $12 billion tourism industry, agriculture plays an important role in diversifying the state economy, preserving greenbelt lands and reducing the Islands’ dependence on imported food. The loss of food-producing livestock businesses makes Hawai’i more dependent on the Mainland and other sources to meet basic needs.
by Dan Vallada – FoodBizDaily.com Sao Paulo
The macadamia nut has been cultivated in Brazil for four decades. Researchers are trying to increase its productivity and resistance.
The commercial cultivation of macadamia nuts in Brazil is recent, started only 40 years ago and productivity is still low. The country, the seventh in world production (2,400 tonnes in 7 thousand hectares), has about 250 producers, 160 of them in the State of Sao Paulo. The biggest Brazilian harvest happened in 2006, with 3,500 tons. Therefore, technicians and researchers are joining forces to study its varieties, nutrition, genetic improvement and phytosanitary control.
HONOLULU — Aquaculture farmers in Hawaii are now able apply for federal stimulus money to help offset high feed prices experienced by the industry last year.
The state Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has allocated $150,000 as Hawaii’s portion of $50 million feed stimulus funding.
The Hawaii grants are being administered through the state department’s Aquaculture Development Program.
State officials say reimbursement amounts are limited to available funds. That means if the amount of eligible applications exceeds the grant amount available, recipients will receive a prorata adjusted amount.
Agricultural groups fear state layoffs will backlog shipments
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 08, 2009
Agricultural industry executives worry that Hawaii businesses will wither on the vine and incoming food will rot on the docks if the state goes through with massive layoffs of agriculture inspectors.
Plans call for laying off 50 of the state’s 78 agriculture inspectors, 64 percent of that specialized work force.
Diminished inspection capacity could also cost hundreds of millions of dollars each year if additional invasive species get established, industry officials say.
State inspectors both certify products to be exported out of Hawaii and inspect food and plants being imported into the state.
KAHULUI – Environmentalists and farmers lashed out Thursday night at the announced layoffs of state agricultural inspectors, arguing that the move planned by the Lingle administration would uproot efforts to preserve the island’s agricultural industry and pristine environment.
Close to 100 people turned out at a Senate Ad Hoc Committee meeting held in the Maui Waena Intermediate School cafeteria. The crowd applauded those who spoke against the layoffs, some even attacking Gov. Linda Lingle.
KAHULUI – The Hawaii State Senate Ad Hoc Committee will hold an informational briefing today on how the layoffs of agricultural inspectors will impact Maui.
Coordinated by Maui Sens. Roz Baker, J. Kalani English and Shan Tsutsui, the meeting will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Maui Waena Intermediate School.
The Maui office of the state Department of Agriculture Plant Quarantine Branch would lose six of 17 positions in layoffs planned for November. Statewide, more than half the department’s agricultural inspectors would be cut.
The head of the Plant Quarantine Branch said last week that the layoffs could mean long delays for imports into the state and could make Hawaii vulnerable to invasive pests.
Similar briefings were held in Kona, Hilo and Honolulu.
Positions targeted to balance state budget
By ILIMA LOOMIS, Staff Writer
POSTED: August 30, 2009
PUKALANI – Plant quarantine officials said last week that laying off more than half the state’s agricultural inspectors would create such a logjam at Hawaii ports that it could cause shortages similar to those seen during shipping strikes.
Carol Okada, manager of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Plant Quarantine Branch, said she has not been able to develop a plan for how her department will continue its core functions after it loses 52 employees, 50 of them inspectors, to layoffs planned for November.
She said food shipments to Maui and the other Neighbor Islands, which because of staff shortages would now have to be routed through Honolulu for inspection, would have to sit on the docks until the state’s remaining inspectors could look at them, with the risk that some food could spoil in the unchilled containers.
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
Budget cuts have left California with fewer inspectors and made that state more prone to slap sanctions on importers when pests are discovered. Hawai’i may also lose inspectors if the state lays off workers in November as planned to balance its budget.
Five key agricultural officials sent a warning letter this month to hundreds of Hawai’i growers and shippers who sell flowers, foliage, herbs, vegetables, potted nursery products and fruit, alerting them to the potential risk of not cleaning up their shipments.
"Anyone that currently ships to California can be the ‘last straw’ that triggers the decision by California to impose severe restrictions on the movement of all products from Hawai’i into the California market," the letter states.
Statehood & Business: Hawaii Statehood 50 Years
By HARRY EAGAR, Staff Writer
POSTED: August 23, 2009
In 1959, plantation agriculture was big business in Hawaii. The plantations were branching out into tourism, but sugar and pineapple – and coffee in Kona – dominated.
In August, with the days of the territory numbered, a typical issue of The Maui News advertised a total of half a dozen help wanted ads. The plantations didn’t advertise for help; they had their own labor recruitment system.
It dwarfed the nonplantation labor system. In August 1959, pineapple plantations hired 1,100 Maui youngsters on school vacations, most of them to work in noisy, hot canneries.
The jobs were much sought after. Damien Farias, owner of Maui Toyota, recalls waiting for three days on a labor bench for a chance to work at a cannery on Oahu when he was in school.
Statehood was expected to give a boost to agriculture. The summary of Hawaii agricultural history published by the state Department of Agriculture says that "with statehood, federal funds became available for the development and growth of Hawaii’s agricultural industries with funding for programs such as farm credit, natural resources and statistical services."
It did not, of course, work out that way.