Can solar and farming co-exist? Dutch trial hopes to prove a perfect match

Renew Economy
by Sophie Vorrath

Swedish multinational power company Vattenfall has unveiled plans to carry out a four-year pilot project in the Netherlands, looking at how a specially designed solar farm can be combined with Dutch strip farming practices.

The trial was announced by Vattenfall last week, off the back of the news that the company had received permission to test a combination of solar panels and organic crop cultivation at a site in Almere, east of Amsterdam, at a scale of around 700kW of PV capacity.

Vattenfall said it was working on the project with “other parties,” and with the backing of the Dutch government, to show how a combination of smart solar and farming practices could maintain land for food production – even improve it, ecologically – and deliver another income source for farmers.

The company said that findings of the so-called Symbizon project were particularly important to the Netherlands, where society “had reservations” about losing valuable agricultural land to solar generation – a concern that is starting to arise more often even in land-rich Australia.

“In the solar farm we alternate rows of panels with strips where various crops are grown for organic farming. This means that far fewer solar panels are being installed per hectare than is usual,” said Annemarie Schouten, Vattenfall’s head of solar development in the Netherlands.

“To ensure sufficient light yield, we use double-sided solar panels. They catch the reflected light from the soil, the crops and the adjacent rows and use it to produce solar energy. The panels also rotate with the sun to maximise yield.”

As part of the project, Vattenfall said a bespoke solar tracking algorithm was being developed by Dutch innovation outfit TNO, to track crop and energy yields and the effects of herb strips, weather forecasts, energy prices and soil conditions.

This algorithm would then be optimised, where possible, in cooperation with Vattenfall and Aeres University of Applied Sciences, a leading university of applied sciences for agribusiness and entrepreneurship in the Netherlands.

The impact of the solar tracking system on crop yield, diseases, and its ease of use for the farmer would be monitored by Aeres Hogeschool, ERF, a private organic farm in the Netherlands, and Hemus, an agricultural innovation outfit – both of which had extensive experience in strip farming.

Vattenfall’s Schouten said gaining approval for the pilot scheme by the Dutch government was a big step forward for the project, and that Vattenfall would now make a decision by the end of the year on its plans, with a possible start date in early 2022.

The trial coincides with the announcement of a much bigger “agrisolar” (or “agroenergy”) project in Europe – a plan to install 660MW of solar panels over 700 hectares of land in Serbia’s Vojvodina province, divided into seven zones for various organic crops.

The joint venture behind that project, Fintel Energija and agribusiness MK Group, say the project would install solar panels on around one-third of the total land area to generate about 832GWh a year, enough to supply 20,000 households, according to Balkan Green Energy News.

According to Fintel Energija and MK Group, combining solar panels with agricultural production creates a microclimate that increases the productivity of the crops and the efficiency of the energy production, while also further reducing emissions and water consumption for irrigation.

In Australia, the Clean Energy Council has called on the solar industry to work with Australian farmers to help solve the growing problem of grid access for new large-scale solar farms, as part of a recent paper published in promotion of agrisolar.

The push from the industry body comes as an increasing number of large-scale solar projects proposed for construction around the country meet opposition from locals over the loss of land previously used for farming or grazing.

The issue has become so prominent in Australia’s regional communities that the Country Women’s Association of Australia recently voted to call on governments to prevent solar farms from being developed in prime agricultural areas.

Like Vattenfall, the CEC paper argues that solar farms can improve both grazing and crop land, while allowing solar farms to be built in areas where the electricity network is strong, providing a win-win for both solar developers and farmers.

As RenewEconomy reported in March, the combination of solar farms with agriculture currently accounts for a small portion of Australia’s large-scale solar capacity: The CEC has identified 15 existing agrisolar projects totalling 1.1GW of capacity across Queensland, NSW and Victoria; the largest a 250MW project at Finley in southern NSW.

All of those projects, however, are “solar grazing”, the simplest form of agrisolar, which involves mixing mostly ground-mounted solar array with livestock – mostly sheep – grazing.

Help is on the way: Funding to assist ranchers in battling two-lined spittlebug

West Hawaii Today
By Laura Ruminski –

Help is on the way for Big Island ranchers fighting an invasive bug decimating pasture land in North and South Kona.

Franny Brewer of the Big Island Invasive Species Committee said the two-lined spittlebug (TLSB) could fit easily on a fingernail, looking innocuous and almost pretty with its orange-on-black stripes. But for Big Island ranchers, the sudden appearance of this insect in South Kona 2016 was anything but welcome. Since then, this tiny insect has spread prolifically, destroying more than 175,000 acres of pasture in the few short years since its arrival.

“The impact this little bug is having on pastures … is catastrophic,” said Mark Thorne, University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service State Range and Livestock Extension Specialist. Thorne and his team have been working since 2016 to find and track TLSB, all while searching for solutions. So far, they have found few strategies for mitigating the damage.

“We have seen the impact zone of this pest increase by about 35,000 acres per year, it’s spreading and it is very, very difficult to control,” Thorne said.

Already, affected ranchers have been forced to reduce herd sizes as the TLSB threatens Hawaii’s $65 million cattle industry. In response, the 2021 state Legislature approved $350,000 funding from the American Rescue Plan to support affected ranchers and fund ongoing research into mitigating the damage. The funds will be directed to the state Department of Agriculture to be used in responding to the invasive spittlebug.

“Hawaii’s food sustainability and resiliency depends on our ability to produce nutritious, affordable, healthy protein,” Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council Managing Director Nicole Galase said, adding that she hopes to work closely with the state Department of Agriculture to ensure the money has the greatest impact on the long-term sustainability of the ranching industry on Hawaii Island.

Keith Unger, who manages McCandless Ranch in South Kona, said the entity has yet to see the invasive bug in its pastureland.

“We’re not affected by it so far, but our next door neighbor is, so it’s just a matter of time,” he said. “It is a scary situation. The Legislature has definitely realized the potential devastation of this insect and that it could go further than just affecting the ranchers at the point that it affects watershed and erosion. If all of a sudden all these grasses disappear and you have nothing but bare ground or weeds, and all of a sudden you have flooding issues, you have soil retention issues.”

Even though the bug has been contained in the Kona region, Unger said the concern obviously is it spreading out of Kona and up into North and South Kohala, where Parker Ranch, one of the largest private owned ranches in the nation is located.

“The cattlemen there and on the other islands are definitely keeping an eye out on this and are participating in educational outreach just to make sure we can contain as best we can,” Unger said. “McCandless only has Guinea grass and akoa, and so far, spittlebug does not affect those feed sources. But anyone who has kikuyu or pangola in particular seems to be mostly affected.”

Roy Wall said Wall Ranch in Kealakekua was not so lucky.

“We started seeing the spittlebug back in 2016 around the same time that a few other Kona ranchers started seeing it,” said Wall. “By 2020, we had seen 100% of our kikuyu and pangola pastures decimated. Invasive weeds have moved in with no grass cover to hold them out.”

Wall said the ranch was forced to reduce its cow heard on those pastures by 50%.

“I feel like we are past the disaster phase and are moving in to the recovery and rebuild phase,” he said. “We have been working on trying to find resistant grasses — and some look promising — but its’ going to take years to recover. I’m hopeful that this bug will run through its initial explosion and find a balance.”

Brewer, with the Big Island Invasive Species Committee, said the team at the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Cooperative Extension Service, CTAHR-CES, has been testing some TLSB-resistant grasses that could be used to reseed pastures. However, unlike the broad open plains where these grasses have been successfully deployed in North America and Brazil, Hawaii pastures range over thousands of feet in elevation and multiple climactic zones, all over diverse substrates, including lava rock, that make reseeding difficult.

“No single grass can solve the problem,” said Carolyn Wong Auweloa, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service State Rangeland Management Specialist.

More research is crucial, she insisted, to help ranch lands recover. She pointed out that TLSB has completely killed forage in the heavily infested areas, effectively reducing productivity to zero and leaving behind a desolate swath that quickly fills in with invasive, toxic, and unpalatable weeds that in turn threaten the native forests that border the pastures.

“These grazing lands will not recover their productive potential without significant inputs to suppress weeds and attempt to re-establish forage species that can withstand the bug,” Auweloa said. “A lot of people don’t realize the important role ranchers play in maintaining the health of our watersheds.”

According to the state Department of Agriculture’s Statewide Agricultural Land Use Baseline study, grazing lands occupy over 760,000 acres in Hawaii.

“Healthy grazing lands have healthy, deeply rooted plant communities that cover the soil and help rainwater infiltrate to recharge our aquifers,” Auweloa said. “The funding from the Legislature will help to make these lands productive again, so they can continue to provide valuable ecosystem and social services, while feeding our livestock, our people and our economy.”

McCandless Ranch’s Unger said the help from the department is appreciated, but biosecurity at airports and ports needs to be beefed up because it’s becoming “one infestation after another.”

“We can and should spend more money at out ports and airports to stop these (invasives) from coming in,” he said. “Here we are, now spending hundreds of thousands and into the millions fighting on the back end. If you are going to talk about more ag sustainability you are right back to biosecurity for the State of Hawaii. Hopefully we can kickstart it again.”

Big Island residents are being asked to be alert about their lawns and pastures. Patches of dead grass that cannot be explained by other environmental factors should be reported right away to the state by visiting, calling (808) 643-PEST (7378) or using the 643-PEST mobile application for iOS and Android. Residents must also practice extreme caution in not transporting the insect out of its known infestation area.

A short documentary aimed at highlighting the plight of the ranchers and the impacts of TLSB in the hopes of raising awareness about the extreme threat to Hawaii’s agriculture can be found at

“This infestation is by far the worst thing I’ve seen in my 40-plus years of ranching in Kona but I’m confident that we will find a way to survive,” said Wall.

Bovine tuberculosis detected in a cow for the first time in 25 years on Molokai

Star Advertiser
By Star-Advertiser Staff –

Bovine tuberculosis, a contagious disease in animals that can infect humans, has been detected in a cow on Molokai for the first time in 25 years, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

The DOA said in a news release today that the cow came from a herd of 30 in Hoolehua, in the central part of Molokai, but had been temporarily moved to Mapulehu, on the east side of the island, because of a drought.

Bovine tuberculosis has been lingering, likely in wildlife, in that part of the island for decades.

The Animal Industry Division on June 22 tested the herd, which is currently in quarantine in Hoolehua. The DOA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working on a “clean-up plan” that will include the culling of the entire herd. Indemnity will be paid to the owner of the herd.

Additionally, nearby herds will be tested.

“While the detection of bovine tuberculosis has only been confirmed in one animal to date, it is the foremost priority for the department to isolate and control this disease before it can spread to other cattle herds on the island,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairwoman of the state’s Board of Agriculture, in a statement. “Of all people, Moloka`i ranchers understand the importance of containing this disease and we appreciate their continued cooperation and assistance.”

The DOA said there have been sporadic outbreaks of bovine tuberculosis on Molokai, especially on the east side, since the 1940s, but this is the first detection of the disease since an outbreak in 1997.

During an outbreak in 1985, the department decided to kill all the cows on the island — more than 9,000 total — in an attempt to eliminate the disease by “removing the host,” state veterinarian Dr. Isaac Maeda said.

“I think back then the idea was to totally depopulate the islands to remove any type of risk,” he said. “It was more widespread. It wasn’t like a single cow tested positive at the time — it was several cattle that were positive.”

Instead, the disease just moved to the wildlife, Maeda said.

In 1993 Hawaii was given a “bovine tuberculosis free” status by the USDA, according to the DOA. However, that status was suspended in 1997 after the detection of an infected 1o-year-old cow that may have contracted the disease by infected feral pigs.

An entire herd was killed, and Hawaii regained its status the following year.

Since then cattle herds in east Molokai have been tested annually, and some monitoring has been conducted on wildlife. The current suspicion is that the most recently infected cow was, as may have been the case in 1997, given the disease by feral pigs.

“That particular cow was in an area that previously had TB in wildlife, on the eastern end (of Molokai),” Maeda said.

Bovine tuberculosis has also been detected in axis deer and mongoose on Molokai, although not in the last 25 years, the DOA said. Maeda noted that there isn’t extensive sampling for wildlife, so it’s less clear what the spread of bovine tuberculosis is like beyond cattle.

A nationwide program to eliminate the disease in cattle began in 1917, although there are still occasional outbreaks in places like Molokai and Michigan.

There is ongoing research to develop a vaccine that can be used in wildlife, although Maeda said that research is still in its early stages.

The most common way bovine tuberculosis is spread to humans is through the consumption of unpasteurized dairy, but it can also spread by eating raw or undercooked meat from an infected animal.

Additionally, people can become infected through direct contact between the disease-causing bacteria and an open wound, and the disease can spread between people via coughs and sneezes.

Bovine tuberculosis can affect the lungs, lymph nodes and other parts of the body, although some people are asymptomatic and cannot spread the disease.

Experts warn Hawaii summer drought ‘could be worse than last year’

by Jenn Boneza

Less than normal rainfall and higher temperatures may cause severe drought conditions in summer 2021.

Some places are already seeing the impact and experts say it will only get worse.

Hot, sunny days are great while at the beach, but too much sunshine and not enough rain for prolonged periods of time can cause problems — especially for farmers and ranchers.

Be prepared for another dry, hot summer. Weather experts are expecting below average rainfall.

Hawaii is seeing abnormally dry conditions on every island across the state and some Leeward areas are experiencing moderate drought conditions already.

According to NOAA Hydrologist Kevin Kodama, two counties will be hit the hardest.

“Hawaii County and Maui County would have the quickest impacts and probably the most severe impact, especially early on,” Kodama said. “I would anticipate that based on the climate outlook, climate model projections, that it could be worse than last year.”

Rep. Lynn DeCoite (D) who represents Molokai, Lanai and parts of Maui, says she can see it already.

“It’s bad. And we’re in May,” Rep. DeCoite said. “Pastures are drying up.”

Rep. DeCoite, who lives on Molokai, says it is concerning. She does not want a repeat of summer 2020 when hundreds of axis deer were found dead of starvation along roadways due to overpopulation and lack of food.

The Hawaii Cattleman’s Council managing director Nicole Galase says ranchers are already preparing for the worst.

“Ranchers are monitoring so many factors when it comes to their operation,” Galase said. “So if a drought is coming, they are preparing ahead of time.”

If there is not enough forage on the ground, they purchase supplemental feed, which she said can get very expensive.

“On top of making sure that the cattle are fed, another important factor when drought comes up is that the ranchers are always looking ahead to make sure that that they’re grazing down the forage so that there’s not a big fuel load for when those dry seasons come so they can prevent wildfires before they start,” she explained.

According to Agriculture Committee vice chair Rep. Amy Perruso, some farmers are more vulnerable than others.

“Small farmers are the most vulnerable,” Perruso said. “Because in my experience, their margins are the smallest. And they can’t really afford the kinds of losses that might come with drought.”

Consumers will feel it as well.

“You’re going to see prices jump in vegetables, fruits, beef,” Rep. DeCoite explained. “We will be depending upon our imports more highly.”

Water will also be an issue as Hawaii moves into the summer months.

Experts are suggesting the people who rely on water catchment systems for their water to begin conserving now.

“Stop washing your cars and watering your yards, it needs to be used for the crops at this time,” Rep. DeCoite said.

The Biggest Ideas in Farming Today Are Also the Oldest

Bloomberg Opinion
By Amanda Little –

Georgia cattle raiser Will Harris left behind the destructive techniques of modern agriculture, charting a new path forward for the livestock industry.

Earth’s soil can sequester vast amounts of carbon — I’ve known this for years. But it wasn’t until I stood at the boundary between two farms in southern Georgia recently that I appreciated the enormous potential of that fact.

Will Harris, a fourth-generation cattleman, reached down and scooped up a handful of pale reddish-brown soil from his neighbor’s peanut fields: “Dead,” he pronounced it, “a lifeless mineral medium.” Then he walked a few paces and dug up another handful — inky black and unctuous — from his own land. “A thriving organic medium, teeming with life,” he said. “It’s 5% organic matter compared to 0.5%, side by side.”

In one palm Harris held the legacy of our industrial farming past, and in the other, evidence of how to do farming right in a climate-stressed world. For every 1% increase in organic matter, an acre of soil locks away about 10 more tons of carbon. The dark pigment in soil is, in fact, carbon — and generally speaking, the darker the soil, the more carbon it contains.

All told, the world’s farmland may be able to sequester as much CO2 as the total amount emitted from the transportation sector, or nearly as much as the global electricity industry. To achieve that level in the U.S. would require significant reforms of industrial farming practices in crop and meat production — changes that would be costly to farmers at first, even as they bring long-term riches such as healthier land and animals. To encourage the transition, the Biden administration, Congress and the agriculture industry must support reforms with tax credits and other financial incentives.

Harris and his Georgia farm, White Oak Pastures, illustrate the path forward, along with all the challenges of redefining modern agriculture. At 66 he tends the land his great grandfather bought in 1866, and that was worked industrially for decades before Harris became a convert to more ecologically sound practices, known today as regenerative farming. The story of his conversion reveals the painful reckoning that comes with facing up to the destructive techniques now ingrained in modern farming, and the need to consider gains in broader prosperity that surpass the simple terms of immediate profit and loss.

Harris’s livestock pastures are teeming with native perennial grasses and cover crops — rye, radish, crimson clover and white clover — that excel at pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, down through their roots and into the soil where the carbon feeds microbial life. As cattle graze and chew off the tops of the vegetation, they aerate the soil with their hooves and fertilize it with their manure, causing more plants and grasses to grow and pumping more carbon into the soil.

White Oak Pastures

Spanning 3,000 acres, White Oak Pastures is a fascinating blend of the wisdom of the past and technology of the future. Harris’ 2,000 sheep graze among a 1,425-acre field of solar panels. He uses drones, cameras, software and 150 miles of state-of-the-art modular fencing to rotate about 3,000 cows daily through 30-acre paddocks. Harris also practices a conservation technique called silvopasture, integrating animals, forage and forestland; he plants thousands of live oaks, pecan and fruit trees in his pastures to provide shade for his animals and lock down more carbon.

According to a soil survey conducted by the sustainability consulting firm Quantis in 2019, White Oak Pastures sequesters roughly the equivalent of 3.5 pounds of carbon dioxide for every pound of grass-fed beef it produces. I spoke with other scientists who think that number would be lower after accounting for all the sheep, pigs, and chickens Harris raises and the feed those animals consume. But many, including a team of scientists from Michigan State University that’s done extensive research on White Oak Pastures, agree that Harris’s cattle operation is net carbon-negative and represents a consummate example of regenerative livestock production.

Harris grew up in Bluffton, Georgia, a town of 100 people in the poorest county in one of the poorest states in the union. For most of his life he helped his father run the farm, then devoted exclusively to cattle. Together they adopted all the latest industrial practices with a singular focus on extracting every cent of profit possible from their herd. “We went to bed thinking about how many animals we could kill the next day,” Harris recalls. “The more the better.”

In those days, like most other industrialized livestock operations, Harris aggressively applied fertilizer and pesticides to his fields, and used antibiotics and hormone implants in his animals to maximize weight gain and fertility. If the recommendation was 2ccs of hormone, he injected 4ccs. “I was a heavy-handed, linear, more-is-better guy,” says Harris — a sensibility that pretty well defines industrial agriculture.

Harris’s conversion began soon after his father died in 2004, when he became the sole decision-maker for the farm. One pivotal moment came when he rode along in a double-decker truck hauling some of his 500-pound calves to be fattened and slaughtered in Nebraska. “The animals upstairs urinated and defecated on the ones on the bottom during a 30-hour drive,” he said. “That didn’t sit right with me.” It also bothered him that after grazing his pastures for months, the calves grew to adulthood in a concrete feedlot while being fattened entirely on corn feed — all calories and no nutrition.

Freed from his father’s strictly profit-driven approach, Harris tapped into his college education in animal husbandry and agriculture science to find alternatives that honored the deep connection he felt to the farmland and his animals. His first big change: he abandoned feedlots and took out a $7 million loan to build his own slaughterhouse so that he could ensure his animals were raised and processed humanely.

A Traumatic Transformation

He soon found that after pulling on one thread, the whole system he’d built with his father started unraveling. After Harris stopped feeding corn and grain to his cattle, he had to expand his pasture lands so that they could be exclusively grass-fed. He eliminated the antibiotics and hormones, and then found himself becoming irked by the financial and environmental costs of the gross overapplication of herbicides and fertilizers on his fields.

Economically, the transformation was traumatic. Harris had taken an enormous risk by making so many changes in succession. For the first time, the family farm was not only in debt, but operating in the red. White Oak Pastures wasn’t able to produce nearly as much beef as it had previously. Without hormones to accelerate growth, it took two years to raise a cow to a weight of 1,100 pounds, while an industrial animal reaches 1,400 pounds at 16 months. His pig litters shrunk: industrially raised sows typically have 14 piglets in a litter; he was lucky to get seven. And his slaughter costs surged: an industrial plant would charge $100 per cow, while it cost Harris five times that.

There was an agonizing period — more than a year — when he thought he would lose everything. But slowly, all the pieces in his new system began to work together. To compensate for his higher costs he raised his prices, charging 30% more for his grass-fed beef than conventional product, and 40% more for his pork.

White Oak Pastures currently hovers at the edge of profitability after years of painful losses. Separate from the financial calculation, the benefits of regenerative farming have been profound. Vastly improved soil fertility, which continues to increase over time, has made for healthier and more abundant pastures and crops. By integrating crop and animal production — long decoupled by industrial agriculture — he’s restored the natural nitrogen cycle in which animal waste, rather than synthetic fertilizers, nourish fields.

Harris has tripled his landholdings, buying up depleted industrial farms that border his own and converting the land from pale, almost un-arable dirt to carbon-rich soils. His methods have significantly increased soil moisture, in turn counteracting topsoil erosion and building resilience to heat and drought in his grasses and crops. In the last 16 years, Harris has eliminated the use of thousands of tons of agrochemicals, ceasing fertilizer runoff, reducing algea blooms in local waterways and stopping the evaporation of fertilizer into the air, which forms nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than CO2.

Regenerative farming is much more labor intensive than conventional agriculture, which Harris counts as a good thing after watching his farming community suffer huge job losses over the decades from industrialization. At the height of its own profitability in the 1990s, White Oak Pastures needed four employees to raise 1,000 head of cattle each year. Now Harris raises 3,000 cows with 190 employees — nearly double the total population of his town. And he’s created a model of local, vertically integrated production that isn’t vulnerable to the kind of supply-chain disruption that plagued the centralized meat industry during the pandemic.

A More Dignified Life

Harris has also restored the presence of native plants on his land and introduced more than a dozen cover crops that invite and sustain a diversity of bird and insect life. As much as any environmental goal, he’s committed to “freeing animals from the stresses and indignities of industrial operations.” He creates conditions in which his animals can express instinctive behaviors: cows can roam and graze, hogs can root and wallow, chickens can scratch and peck — which for them, fundamentally, is a state of contentment.

In my visits to dozens of cattle farms and slaughterhouses all over the world, I’ve found none more attuned to animal wellness or humane slaughter than White Oak Pastures.

Still, Harris struggles to remain profitable, and his story underscores the need for federal incentives to help farms like White Oak Pastures thrive. His cattle operation can’t yet receive compensation for sequestering carbon — even though private sector players such as Indigo Agriculture Inc. and Nori are paying farmers to do just that. Measuring carbon on livestock farms is far more complex than on farms that grow commodity crops, and carbon-market firms say they won’t be registering livestock operations until measurement technologies and protocols become more precise and widely accepted.

That needs to happen swiftly; the U.S. Department of Agriculture must fund non-profit research organizations like Comet Farm that are working to improve and expand measurement protocols. The Biden administration can also put money toward a farmer tax credit based on one designed for oil producers and power plants in 2017 to encourage the use of direct-air carbon-capture technologies. Soil, after all, is the mother of all direct-air capture.

But the biggest immediate threat to small farmers like White Oak Pastures is the lack of regulation over labeling agricultural products as organic or grass-fed. Loose definitions of those terms allow major industrial producers to claim the label and charge far lower prices than regenerative farmers, even while raising their cattle overseas on corn feed. That forces farmers like Will Harris to lower their prices to compete, squeezing their razor-thin margins even further. Biden’s USDA has the power to rein in this damaging trend with stricter definitions and enforcement.

In the meantime, it’s essential to educate consumers, who are increasingly opting for plant-based proteins from brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, about the climate benefits of regenerative livestock farming. Harris looks at it this way: if a person avoids meat because they don’t want to eat a once-living animal, he respects that. Or if they just don’t like the taste, “I get it,” he said. “But if they tell me that they’re opposed to eating meat because it’s inhumane or destroys the earth, they can kiss my ass.”

Perhaps the most valuable lesson the public and private sector can learn from White Oak Pastures is that the answer to food security and climate-smart agriculture isn’t technology alone, but technology combined with the wisdom of ecology. Technology in cooperation — not competition — with the natural world. “Nature is so much smarter than we are,” Harris said. “We think we can figure out anything, except we can’t. Nature bats last.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg buys 600 more acres on Kauai

Pacific Business News
By Janis L. Magin – Senior Editor

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have acquired nearly 600 more acres of land on Kauai for $53 million from a nonprofit established by a local family whose roots go back to the days of the Hawaiian kingdom, bringing the Facebook CEO’s land holdings in Hawaii to more than 1,300 acres.

Chan and Zuckerberg closed on the purchase of three parcels totaling 595.4 acres, including land fronting Larsen’s Beach, on March 19, according to the deeds filed with the state Bureau of Conveyances. The transaction didn’t include the beach access road, which is owned by the county and remains open to the public.

The couple said in a statement that they plan to continue the work the seller, Waioli Corp., has done to conserve the land known as Lepeuli, while also keeping the lease with the current tenant, Paradise Ranch.

“Waioli does essential work promoting conservation and cultural preservation and we are mindful of their legacy with regard to this land,” Chan and Zuckerberg said. “We are committed to honoring the current ranching lease to Paradise Ranch and extending the existing agricultural dedication.

“We have been working closely with a number of community partners to promote conservation, produce sustainable agriculture and protect native wildlife at our ranch and in the surrounding areas and look forward to extending that effort to Lepeuli in the months ahead.”

Chan and Zuckerberg — who is the fifth-richest person in the world with a net worth of more than $110 billion, according to Forbes — bought the land through a limited liability company registered in Delaware whose member is San Francisco-based Square Seven Management LLC, according to the deeds filed with the Hawaii Bureau of Conveyances. Square Seven is managed by wealth manager Iconiq Capital LLC, whose clients include Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg began amassing the Kauai estate in September 2014 when he bought the 357-acre Kahuaina Plantation from California investment firm Falko Partners and then bought 384 acres from the late Hawaii auto dealer James Pflueger and added more in 2018 for a total of nearly 750 acres. His entities also acquired titles to dozens of smaller lots within the larger parcels that were known as kuleana lands.

Four of the kuleana parcels were conveyed to Carlos Andrade and his wife, Ivy, in July 2019 after a public auction that drew bids from other family members of the parcels’ original owner, Manuel Rapozo. The rest are now owned by Zuckerberg entities.

Chan and Zuckerberg have been building a number of residential and agricultural structures on the properties, which are being used for ranching. According to building permits that total more than $83 million, the largest was a 2018 permit application for a 57,059-square-foot single-family residence with a connected accessory building/dwelling with a total of eight bedrooms, nine full baths and 16 half baths, according to permit filings with the Kauai County Building Division.

The latest acquisition includes a 561.34-acre parcel of land stretching from the ocean to Kuhio Highway, a 1.8-acre parcel on the ocean and a 34.26 parcel on the mauka side of Kuhio Highway for a total of 595.4 acres.

The seller, Waioli Corp., is a nonprofit organization established by members of the kamaaina Wilcox family, who are descended from missionary schoolteachers Abner and Lucy Wilcox.

“The decision provides Waioli with the financial ability to be able to continue our critical conservation and historical work and ensure that Kauai’s cultural history continues to be shared in the community for years to come,” Waipoli Corp. President Sam Pratt said in a statement.

Pratt said the organization chose Chan and Zuckerberg after seeing their “dedication over the years to land conservation, protecting native species and working to preserve the natural beauty of Kauai.”

“We know that this land will remain in their trusted hands and that Mark and Priscilla will act as responsible stewards of Lepeuli today and in the future,” he said.

Hawaii Pacific Health’s Wilcox Medical Center, the largest hospital on Kauai, was named for George N. Wilcox, who bought Grove Farm Plantation in the 1860s. The beneficiaries of Waioli Corp. are descendants of his brothers and sisters.

Waioli Corp. operates the Waioli Mission House museum and the Mahamoku Beach Residence in Hanalei and the Grove Farm Homestead Museum in Lihue.

Hawai’i Sheep and Goat Associations Film Imu Demonstration Video

Big Island Now

Hawai’i State agricultural nonprofit, the Hawai’i Sheep and Goat Association teamed up with the Men of PA’A to stage and produce a unique imu demonstration video. Filmed on location in Puna District, Big Island, the video includes a step by step on how to build and utilize an imu. The video also highlights the use of local lamb cooked in the imu.

“In order to promote the production of local food and cooking techniques, we wanted to spotlight the use of Hawai’i grown, grass-fed lamb, using this ancient Hawaiian way of cooking,” said Julie LaTendresse, HSGA VP. “The video illustrates that all different types of food can be cooked in an imu.”

The Hawai’i Sheep & Goat Association is a 501 c 5 nonprofit whose mission is to support, improve, and strengthen Hawai’i’s sheep and goat community. We provide networking opportunities, coordinate educational and promotional events, and serve as a unified voice to represent island sheep and goat producers.

The organization received a promotional grant from the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture. With this grant, they were able to produce a local cookbook including recipes for cooking lamb and goat, as well as recipes utilizing milk, cheese and many local ingredients.

“In order to get people to eat locally we need to highlight great local foods and ways to cook that food.” said Amy Decker, a local goat farmer in Kona.

The video was filmed over three days and also highlights important Hawaiian knowledge and culture passed down from the ancient Hawaiians. The Executive Director of local nonprofit the Men of PA’A, Iopa Maunakea was the Kahu imu for the three days. He brought together all the parts and the knowledge passed down from his Kupuna to execute the imu.

“It’s important that we pass the food wisdom that was given to us by our ancestors. We want to teach our keiki how to do imu like it was taught to us. And by using local ingredients like sheep, kalo, sweet potatoes, we can try to pass on the importance of food independence and sovereignty for Hawai’i,” said Maunakea.

Post-Doctoral Researcher, Dr. Katie Kamelamela attended the imu and helps bring a larger context to the video.

“Doing imu is a Hawaiian cultural practice that combines not just ways of cooking food, but multiple rites of passage, as well as opportunities for people to come together to share food and stories.”

Chef Ellard Resignato, Executive Producer of the Hawai’i Island based food and travel TV/Web series the Culinary Edge TV filmed and edited the video. “This video brings together so many important elements like community, food knowledge, local food, cultural practices, and wisdom. It provides a window into the future of sustainability and food sovereignty on our island,” said Resignato.

The video will Premiere on the Hawai’i Sheep and Goat Associations YouTube channel on April 22 at 6:00 P.M.

Hawai’i Sheep & Goat Association

The Hawaii Sheep and Goat Association’s mission is to support, improve and strengthen Hawaii’s sheep and goat community by providing a network, coordinating educational and promotional events and serving as a unified voice to represent sheep and goat producers in Hawaii. The focus of our educational and promotional work to foster and encourage the breeding, raising, showing and marketing of sheep and goats and sheep and goat products as well as good grazing management.

Statement of Congressman Ed Case Before the Full U.S. House of Representatives Introducing Bills To Modernize The Jones Act

Madam Speaker, today I introduce three bills to end a century of monopolistic closed market domestic cargo shipping to and from my isolated home state of Hawai‘i as well as the other island and separated jurisdictions of our country not part of the continental United States. In doing so, we will break the stranglehold on the peoples and economies of these exposed communities and their resulting sky-high costs of living which results from just a few domestic shipping companies controlling the lifeline of commerce upon which we absolutely depend.

These bills all amend the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act. That federal law mandates that all cargo shipping between U.S. ports occur exclusively on U.S., not foreign, flagged vessels. Additionally, the law requires that these vessels are built in the U.S. and owned and crewed by U.S. citizens.

The Jones Act was enacted in a protectionist era under the guise of preserving a strong national merchant marine. But today it is just an anachronism: most of the world’s shipping is by way of an international merchant marine functioning in an open, competitive market. And those few U.S. flag cargo lines that remain have maneuvered the Jones Act to develop virtual monopolies over domestic cargo shipping to, from and within our most isolated and exposed locales – our island and offshore states and territories – that have no alternative modes of transportation such as trucking or rail.

My Hawai‘i is a classic example. Located almost 2,500 miles off the West Coast, we import well over 90 percent of our life necessities by ocean cargo. There are plenty of international cargo lines who could and would compete for a share of that market. Yet only two U.S. flag domestic cargo lines—Matson Navigation and Pasha Hawai‘i—operate a virtual duopoly over our lifeline.

While they are nominally subject to federal regulation, the fact of the matter is that cargo prices have gone in only one direction–up, fast and repeatedly, despite a surplus of international shipping–and it is indisputable that there is no downward market pressure which would otherwise result from meaningful competition. These accelerating cargo prices are not absorbed by the shipping lines, but passed through all the way down the chain, to the transporters, wholesalers, retailers, small businesses, mom-n-pops and ultimately consumers, of all of the elementals of life, from food to medical supplies, clothes, housing and virtually all other goods.

The result is a crippling drag on an already-challenged economy and the very quality of life in Hawai‘i.

The broadest, deepest effects of the Jones Act on Hawai‘i result from its impact on westbound imports from the continental United States to Hawai’i. But Hawai‘i is an export location as well, in key products such as agriculture and livestock. Here the Jones Act also effectively stifles meaningful competition in getting those products to their primary markets on the U.S. Mainland. Because the producers of these products and all that rely for their own livelihood on their successful export have to eat inflated shipping costs, these export industries, which any economist knows are the ultimate key to any economy’s prosperity, are also crippled.

Let’s take a concrete example: Hawaii’s once-prosperous ranching/cattle industry, which is so key to the economic health and the very lifestyle of so much of areas like the rural Big Island, where I was born and raised. That industry depends on getting its product, young cattle, to West Coast pens and transportation hubs in a cost-efficient manner. There are foreign cargo carriers that specialize, through custom cattle ships and overall sensitivity and adjustment to rancher timetables and needs, in such transport, but the Jones Act outright excludes them from the Hawai‘i-Mainland market. As a result, Hawaii’s ranchers are reduced to two crippling, cost magnifying options. The first is to ship their cargo by foreign carriers to Canada, where they have to go through a myriad of bureaucratic, cost-magnifying gyrations to get their product eventually to their U.S. markets. The second is to beg for the goodwill of the domestic carriers, to whom this is simply a hindrance rather than a major commitment, to ship directly to the West Coast.

And it shows: most of the cattle are first shipped from Hawaii’s Neighbor Islands, where the bulk of the cattle industry is located, to O‘ahu, in small “cow-tainers,” where they sit for days in Honolulu Harbor awaiting the return to the Mainland of one of the massive cargo ships designed and utilized for quite another purpose. The result (besides associated higher costs) is in-harbor cattle waste disposal challenges, higher in-transit cattle mortality and lower-weight cattle delivery to market. That’s what happens when you try to squeeze a square peg into a round hole.

More broadly, there is much evidence about the direct impact of the Jones Act on shipping prices to noncontiguous areas. At a basic level, the everyday goods that we rely on in Hawai‘i cost much more than on the Mainland, a difference which largely cannot be attributed to anything other than shipping costs.

Last year, the Grassroot Institute of Hawai‘i published a thorough and first-of-it-kind report, “Quantifying the Cost of the Jones Act to Hawai‘i.” The report found that:

  • The median annual cost of the Jones Act to the Hawai‘i economy is $1.2 billion.
  • The annual cost of shipping to Hawai‘i is estimated to be $654 million higher and prices $916 million higher.
  • The Jones Act annually costs each Hawai‘i resident more than $645. (3.
  • Thanks to the Jones Act, Hawai‘i has approximately 9,100 fewer jobs, representing $404 million in wages.
  • Hawai‘i families across all income groups would benefit from Jones Act reform. In the absence of Jones Act restrictions, those making between $15,000 and $70,000 annually would see an annual across-the-board economic benefit ranging from $78 million to $154 million.
  • Annual tax revenues would be $148.2 million higher.
  • Focusing solely on the Jones Act requirement that vessels be built in the United States, they found that the build provision results in a 1.2% shipping cost increase for Hawaii. This translates annually to an added cost of $531.7 million to the state’s economy, or about $296 per resident. It also means a loss of 3,860 jobs, and $30.8 million less in state and local tax revenues.

In 2012, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York studied Puerto Rico’s economy and found that “the high cost of shipping is a substantial burden on the Island’s productivity.” The New York Fed found that, “[i]t costs an estimated $3,063 to ship a twenty-foot container of household and commercial goods from the East Coast of the United States to Puerto Rico; the same shipment costs $1,504 to nearby Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) and $1,687 to Kingston (Jamaica)—destinations that are not subject to Jones Act restrictions.” There is only one reason why costs are double to ship from the continental United States to a domestic port in Puerto Rico as compared to foreign ports in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica: there is international competition on the latter routes, none on the domestic route and the shipping companies take full advantage of that lack of competition.

The three bills I introduce today say: enough is enough. If you, the continental U.S., wants to continue the Jones Act as to shipping between your locations, that’s your business. But don’t penalize us island and other noncontiguous locations by throwing us to the monopoly wolves you’ve created.

The first bill, the Noncontiguous Shipping Relief Act, exempts all noncontiguous U.S. locations, including Hawai‘i, from the Jones Act. The second, the Noncontiguous Shipping Reasonable Rate Act, benchmarks the definition of a “reasonable rate” that Jones Act shipping can charge to within ten percent of analogous international shipping rates. And the third, the Noncontiguous Shipping Competition Act, prevents monopolies or duopolies in noncontiguous Jones Act shipping. Essentially, the bills are intended to lay out options for providing relief for our U.S. noncontiguous areas. We can resolve the issue in many ways, but we must change the status quo which has had such a deep, broad and negative impact on my state and the other jurisdictions beholden to the Jones Act.

The Noncontiguous Shipping Relief Act would allow the noncontiguous jurisdictions to be serviced by non-Jones Act vessels and increase, or in some cases create any, competition in these critical shipping lanes. Again, this is a small portion of the total national Jones Act shipping where it is particularly destructive in application.

Let me address directly the argument offered up by the domestic shippers in defense of the Jones Act: that it contains important labor and environmental protections that would be lost upon repeal. My bill would retain these important protections. Specifically, it provides that all foreign shippers operating under the bill’s Jones Act exemptions must comply with the same labor, environmental, tax, documentation, U.S. locus and other laws as are applicable to non-U.S. flag ships and shippers transiting U.S. waters today.

The Noncontiguous Shipping Reasonable Rate Act would define a “reasonable rate” for the noncontiguous domestic ocean trade as no more than ten percent above the rate set by a comparable international rate recognized by the Federal Maritime Commission. Currently, the Surface Transportation Board technically has the authority to adjudicate and set precedent on what a “reasonable rate” is for Jones Act shipping, but it has almost never been used and never to a clear conclusion on what is a reasonable rate. My bill would define reasonable to remove uncertainty. Current Jones Act shipping rates vary widely and there is no central compilation of these rates. The ten percent benchmark would allow for variance but also ensure that Americans in our noncontiguous areas are not forced to pay exorbitant rates way above shipping rates which would otherwise be provided through international competition were the Jones Act not applicable.

The Noncontiguous Shipping Competition Act would exempt shipping routes to noncontiguous jurisdictions from the Jones Act requirements if a monopoly or duopoly exists on those routes. The Jones Act has resulted in the blossoming of monopolies and duopolies in our noncontiguous jurisdictions. To ensure that these communities, which are the most reliant in the country on shipping to receive necessities, are not held hostage to these dominant companies, my bill would give Jones Act exemptions to routes that are not serviced by at least three companies with separate ownership. In short, if a domestic route is in fact in a competitive environment, the Jones Act is less of a problem, but if there is no competition, then the route should be opened up to international competition by rescinding the Jones Act.

Madam Speaker, these long-overdue bills are of the utmost importance to the localities which have long borne the unfair brunt of the Jones Act. It is often difficult to pierce the veil of longstanding custom and understanding to see the real negative impacts of a law and what should instead be. It is even more difficult to change a law which provides a federally created and endorsed monopoly under which no competition exists to hold down prices. Yet clearly the time for these measures is overdue. I urge their passage.

Ed Case
1st District, Hawai’i
2210 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, Dc 20515
Telephone: 202-225-2726
Fax: 202-225-0688

1132 Bishop Street,
Suite 1100
Honolulu, Hi 96813
Telephone: 808-650-6688
Fax: 808-533-0133
Website: Case.House.Gov

Committee On Appropriations
Subcommittees: Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies
Legislative Branch Committee On Natural Resources
Subcommittees: National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Water, Oceans and Wildlife Indigenous Peoples Of The United States