Farmer claims ag bill morphs into something else

Howard Green thought he was helping farmers, like himself, sell more of their products directly to customers.

Instead, the bill he offered to lawmakers has raised concerns the state Legislature may again be trying to undermine county regulations on genetically modified crops and pesticides for the second time this session.

The legislation Green, an Oahu farmer and lawyer, said he wrote changes only a few words in a section on agriculture districts in the Hawaii Revised Statutes.

But the addition of “without further limitations or restrictions” in a sentence regarding allowed uses has some worried it could significantly limit the ability of counties to regulate agriculture, and pass laws, as Hawaii and Kauai counties did last year, addressing the use of modified crops and chemicals in agriculture.

Former Mayor Harry Kim, a critic of attempts by the Legislature to limit county home rule, said the companion legislation, Senate Bill 2777 and House Bill 2467, would have significant implications.

“I think a lot of people will be very surprised and maybe even stunned by it,” he said.

Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, called it a “sneaky … cynical attempt to take away home rule,” adding he has received email from constituents concerned about the legislation.

“I think the (genetically modified organism), pesticide issue is the motivation for it,”