Hawaii law may hurt farmers | The Honolulu Advertiser


Bid process could bring more outside competition

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai’i taxpayers will likely be paying more to buy agriculture products under a new state law aimed at supporting local growers.

Act 175 hopes to use government purchasing power to benefit local agriculture. The law, which took effect July 1, requires state agencies to gather competitive bids before buying food and other agricultural products.

It gives up to 15 percent preference to locally grown products in the bidding process. So if a Mainland grower can supply the food for $100, and a local grower bids $114, the local grower gets the contract.

"What this bill allows is for the state to use its purchasing power to procure these local products to really enhance local agriculture by giving them viable market opportunities," said Elizabeth Haws Connally, who lobbied for the change on behalf of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation.

Funds Located May Prevent Agriculture Cuts – KITV Honolulu

HONLULU — The head of the state agriculture department said Wednesday she’s located funds to cut in half the number of agriculture inspectors who may be laid off because of the state’s budget crisis.

The Lingle administration plans to use money from a new user fee that the governor tried to veto two years ago.

In August, the state notified 50 agriculture inspectors they could be laid off — that’s two-thirds of the staff who check Christmas Trees and incoming produce for invasive pests like snakes and insects.

The farming industry is upset, because a lack of inspectors will slow down outgoing shipments of everything from corn seed to fish grown in aquaculture operations.

The Chairperson of the State Agriculture Department said she plans to use money from two funds to cut the amount of layoffs in half to 25 inspectors.

"That would give us some breathing room as we continue to look for more funds and at least to stave off the initial layoffs during this period," said state agriculture chairwoman Sandra Kunimoto.

Withering loans – Hawaii Business – Starbulletin.com

starHawaii farmers find that loans are fewer, smaller and more difficult to obtain in this economic slump

By Allison Schaefers

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 23, 2009

Wall Street is as far as you can get from the 8-acre Steelgrass Farm in Kauai where the main attraction is chocolate, but the trickle-down impacts have made for bittersweet returns.

"We just got turned down for a loan again," said Tony Lydgate, who helped his children, Emily and Will, purchase Steelgrass Farm in the 1990s. "Our revenues are in the low six figures, but we can’t even get a $20,000 line of credit."

The Lydgates, who have about half of all the cacao trees on Kauai, offer tours to supplement their farming income. Still, they need more capital to establish an agricultural cooperative that harvests cacao for commercial distribution.

"We can’t expand at the speed that we would like, too," Lydgate said.

The Lydgates are not alone. As the economy has slumped, more farmers in Hawaii and elsewhere have found that the crop of loans available to them has withered.

State auditor: Molokai water system mismanaged

Maui News

WAILUKU ? The state auditor issued a blistering report last week charging the state Department of Agriculture with mismanaging the Molokai Irrigation System while simultaneously allowing it to deteriorate over a period of decades.

The irrigation system is crucial to the island?s agriculture-based economy but draws only about 4 million gallons a day ? less than 10 percent of its projected capacity when it was first planned.

?We found that while the Department of Agriculture inherited a broken system, little has been done to learn about system problems or to create a plan to address them,? state Auditor Marion Higa wrote in her 57-page report. ?The department?s flawed management endangers agriculture in Molokai.?

However, state Agriculture Chairwoman Sandra Kunimoto called most of the report?s criticisms ?overreaching? in a telephone interview Friday.

She said she felt as though the report?s dramatic statements weren?t backed up by the actual details contained within it.