Hawaii Public Radio –
By Ku`uwehi Hiraishi –
Hawaiʻi legislators are one step closer to dissolving the state’s Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC). The 27-year-old entity was initially created to develop economically viable farms to fill the void created by the closure of plantations. But a recent state audit found the ADC has done little to fill that void.
Hawaiʻi lawmakers established the Agribusiness Development Corporation in 1994 to convert the state’s agricultural infrastructure from plantation-style monocrop production to a more diversified agriculture industry.
Over the years, the ADC secured agreements for 2,000 acres of former plantation lands on Kauaʻi and Oʻahu with growers producing a variety of crops for local consumption. But a recent report by the state auditor found the ADC has done little to fill that void. It criticized the agency for a lack of oversight and in many cases non-existent recordkeeping.
House Bill 1271 would disband the ADC and transfer its resources including four staff and an estimated 20,000 acres of land to the state Department of Agriculture.
Jimmy Nakatani, head of the ADC, argues the agency has already made some changes recommended in the state audit and he says the bill is “drastic” and “unwarranted.”
But Koloa resident Jeri Di Pietro, President of Hawaiʻi SEED, says the failures of A-D-C have meant a lost opportunity for local farmers looking to develop their own agricultural business.
“I have come to know many people who want to farm on Kauaʻi. They want to grow healthy food and there is a whole workforce here on the West Side and on the South Shore,” says Di Pietro, “These people, if they were able to get onto the land, they would avoid having to commute into Līhuʻe and would have jobs there to be able to grow our local food for the island.”
The House Finance Committee unanimously approved House Bill 1271, which will now go before the full House for approval.