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.
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.
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."
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.
Calavo Growers is buying Hawaii Pride and Hawaiian Sweet
By Nina Wu
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
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 . . .
Copyright 2007 Molokai Times